PFI: BIC: WearNet: Smart Health Monitoring & Diagnosis System based on Wearable Nano-biosensing Networks

Funding agency

National Science Foundation

Award number



September 1, 2017-August 31, 2020


Major advancements in the fields of electronics, photonics, electro-mechanical systems and wireless communication have enabled the development of compact wearable devices, with applications in diverse domains such as fitness, wellness and medicine. Despite their potential, existing wearable devices are only able to measure a few parameters (e.g., heart rate, breathing, temperature or blood pressure). In parallel to these efforts, nanotechnology is enabling the development of miniature sensors that can detect different types of human health events at the nanoscale with unprecedented accuracy. In-vivo nanosensing systems, which can operate inside the human body in real time, have been proposed as a way to provide faster and more accurate disease diagnosis over traditional technologies. Despite the potential of this technology, there are several limitations in the current systems, such as the cost and bulkiness of existing portable systems, which limit its real-world impact. The objective of this project is to develop a smart service system for advanced health monitoring and disease diagnosis based on wearable nano-biosensing networks. The system consists of three elements: 1) a nanoplasmonic biochip, to be implanted under the skin and designed to react to lung cancer biomarkers; 2) a wearable smart band, integrated by nanophotonic devices for excitation and measurement of the implant; and 3) a software platform to process the measured signals, extract the information, and formulate a diagnosis. This technology will significantly boost the applications of wearable devices, by providing the means to detect different types of diseases and, in particular, cancer. By partnering with two industry leaders and pioneers in the fields of solid-state electronics and advanced biomedical devices, this project is expected to enable cancer progression monitoring systems, with a broad societal impact. Importantly, integrating research and industry with education is a priority in this interdisciplinary effort, which will train the next generation of student scientists (6 doctoral students supported).

The project encompasses four intertwined research thrusts. The first thrust is focused on the development of the nanoplasmonic biosensing technology at the basis of this smart health system. This includes an implantable nanoplasmonic biochip composed of multiplexed sensor arrays for lung cancer detection from biomarkers in blood, as well as the optical nano-sources and nano-photodetectors needed to respectively excite and measure the biosensing signals through reflection, both integrated in a wearable device. The second thrust is focused on the development of the software algorithms to dynamically calibrate and operate the nano-sources, collect and post-process the measured signals at the nano-photodetectors by considering the intra-body wireless channel, extract the diagnose information and securely share the collected data with the healthcare provider. The third thrust is focused on the human factors that impact the design of the entire system, including the study of the impact and optimization of the nanoplasmonic biochip in biological tissues, the development of biochip regeneration techniques for continued operation of the implant, the investigation of the photothermal effects introduced by the nanophotonic excitation platform and the implant, and the processing and distribution of sensitive data related to the users’ health. Finally, the fourth thrust will create an integrated testbed for the entire proposed system, involving in-vitro testing of the biochips with blood samples of lung cancer patients, ex-vivo testing with biochips implanted in tissue-equivalent phantoms with blood microcirculation networks, and testing in cadaver specimens.

The project is led by an interdisciplinary team of researchers at the University at Buffalo with participation of the Departments of Electrical Engineering, Chemical and Biomedical Engineering and Orthopedics. Two industry partners contribute and support the development of this project, Intel Labs (Hillsboro, Oregon, large business partner) and Garwood Medical Devices (Buffalo, NY, start-up partner). In addition, the Roswell Park Cancer Institute (Buffalo, NY), a cancer research and treatment center, serves as a broader context partner and consultant to the team.


Faculty and Students

Dr. Josep Miquel Jornet

Dr. Mark Ehrensberger

Dr. Liang Feng

Dr. Edward Furlani

Dr. Qiaoqiang Gan

Dr. Zhi Sun

Dr. Yun Wu

Dr. Pedram Johari

Amit Sangwan

Honey Pandey


Industry Partners

Jeffrey Foerster, Intel Labs

Wayne Bacon, Garwood Medical Devices

Dr. Grace Dy, Roswell Park Cancer Institute