Special Seminar: Sumita Pennathur, PhD

Apr 12
4:00 PM
Rodin Auditorium, Green Hall

Sumita Pennathur, PhD
Professor of Mechanical Engineering
University of California, Santa Barbara

Development of Medical Devices Using MEMS and Electrokinetic Fluid Technology


Wearable medical technologies have the potential to revolutionize and democratize healthcare, by capturing the physiological variables which determine the progression towards health or disease. To date, most wearables capture downstream physiological variables which reflect the output of our bodies - heartbeat, temperature, blood pressure, or motion. Very few continuously sense the chemical environment of the body, meaning we do not yet have access to upstream variables which may predict health or disease. One exception is in the realm of continuous glucose monitoring (CGM). There exist a few semi-invasive devices and sensing strategies capable of providing real-time glucose measurements accurate enough to help regulate blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes. However, the existing devices are invasive, painful, and most be regularly calibrated, limiting their desirability both to patients with diabetes and to the general public. Furthermore, there is a plethora of striking data with artificial pancreas systems and existing FDA-approved devices for the diabetes community, but there is still a dearth of innovating minimally invasive sensing and insulin delivery devices that are accurate, sleek, user-friendly, and transformative enough to revolutionize diabetes management.

Coming from the field of mechanical engineering, and more specifically, nanotechnology, I have spent the last three years – since my daughter was diagnosed with Type I diabetes – inventing new technologies using the latest advancements in MEMS, nanotechnology and electrokinetic micro- and nano-fluidics. Specifically, in my UCSB laboratory, I have developed innovative microneedle fabrication technologies, innovative MEMS-based integrated detection strategies, and electrokinetic biopolar electrode based pumping strategies. Microneedles to date are not viable in many systems because they are not repeatable, reliable, and/or have the hollowed bellowed tip required for painless insertion, all issues which we have been able to design around. Furthermore, we developed a dual junction photodiode within a silicon MEMS substrate that can allow for eloquent fluorescence based sensing.
Finally, we have harnessed the 10 years of nanofluidic electrokinetic research to determine a paradigm with which to create concentration gradients in ionic fluids sufficient to create pressures for continuous, harmless electrokinetic based pumping for a sleep, thin, fluidic patch pump.These technologies will enable painless, minimally invasive, small form-factor CGM and micropump devices that can respond to the best algorithms and have the highest performance in terms of glucose management to date. Furthermore, our platforms are amenable to detecting and delivering multiple analytes in a real-time, continuous manner, thus changing the paradigm for on-body biosensing, delivery and continuous biomonitoring for medicine in general.

Professor Pennathur is a professor of Mechanical Engineering at University of California, Santa Barbara, specializing in the fields of MEMS, nanofludics, and electrokinetics. Specifically, her most significant contributions include: 1) unearthing a novel mechanism for separation and concentration of analytes for bioanalytical applications, 2) developing a label-free detection mechanism for nucleic acids (that has since spun off into a point-of-care diagnostic company), 3) developing commercial medical diagnostic products, 4) building optical and acoustic biosensors and 5) developing revolutionized methods for measuring blood glucose for patients with diabetes.

Organizer / Host: Co-Sponsored by: Sling Health, AGES, Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science, & Biomedical Engineering