14 Jul 2021
4 minute read

NanoDx licenses IBM CMOS-compatible nanosensors for rapid COVID-19 testing tech

Rapid but accurate low-cost testing could play an essential role in containing pandemics.

NanoDx handheld Covid-19 cartidge

If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we need to be prepared for the next global health crisis.

With that in mind, our teams at IBM Research and medical device company NanoDxTM are announcing that NanoDx is licensing IBM’s nanoscale sensor technology for use in NanoDx’s diagnostic platform. IBM’s technology was developed with the goal of advancing sensor CMOS technology.

NanoDx plans to use this sensor technology for diagnostic platforms designed to provide rapid, accurate and inexpensive detection of different diseases. NanoDx also plans to use this technology to advance efforts to diagnose a variety of medical conditions rapidly and accurately, including COVID-19, different forms of influenza, traumatic brain injury (TBI), sepsis and stroke in the field of in vitro diagnostics, as well as biosensors.

The IBM-designed nano biosensors are metal-oxide semi-conductive (CMOS)-compatible, which means they may be more cost-effectively and rapidly manufactured in high-volume. When integrated with automation circuitry, these tiny sensors may enable NanoDx’s real-time, point-of-care diagnostics technology to detect and quantify biomarkers from small fluid specimens in less than two minutes. This collaboration is significant because it offers a healthcare use case for IBM’s CMOS hardware technology.

NanoDx handheld with Covid Cartridge.
Figure 1:
NanoDx handheld with Covid Cartridge.

Pandemic pivot

Prior to the pandemic, NanoDx had been working on a proprietary diagnostic platform that the company believed could rapidly detect early signs of TBI. Their sensing platform was designed to detect the presence of biomarkers in a small fluid specimen by monitoring changes in the sensing current signal.

With the advent of COVID-19, NanoDx needed to find a way to mass produce the tens of millions of units needed to satisfy projected demand, as well as manage more complex diseases that require more complicated multiplexing capabilities. Fortunately, NanoDx had held preliminary discussions with IBM Research several years ago with the objective of incorporating our technology into its existing process and recognized the potential of our technology.

Concurrently, our IBM Research team independently recognized what we believed to be drawbacks in existing diagnostic technology and had been working on developing enhanced biosensors that addresses these issues. Leveraging our expertise in device physics, materials and CMOS technology, our team was able to create biosensors with significantly enhanced sensing characteristics that could potentially be produced at extremely high production volumes with expanded multiplexing at a lower cost.

Furthermore, these sensors could be cost effectively mass produced in a CMOS foundry with existing tooling. The details of this research are published in “Silicon Nanowire Field Effect Transistor Sensors with Minimal Sensor-to-Sensor Variations and Enhanced Sensing Characteristics.”1

NanoDx saw the publication and was interested in working with us in the field of in vitro diagnostics, as well as biosensors on their TBI detector. Soon after, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, NanoDx approached IBM again. They wanted to modify their device for rapid COVID-19 testing and thought IBM Research’s nanoscale sensor technology could help them address this new challenge with the ability to cost-effectively scale to significant production volumes.

NanoDx’s goal is to create accurate, rapid and low-cost handheld diagnostic devices that would be available to consumers for at-home testing.

Despite the strides made in containing the COVID-19 pandemic, there is still room for more accurate testing, as well as easily manufacturable devices that could be used to get ahead of any future pandemics. Through NanoDx, IBM Research’s innovative nanoscale technology may now play a crucial part in rapid tests for COVID-19 and other health conditions.

IBM has licensed its nanosensor technology to NanoDx without warrantee of success for it to solely develop a diagnostic product.


14 Jul 2021





  1. Zafar, S., D’Emic, C., Jagtiani, A., et al. Silicon Nanowire Field Effect Transistor Sensors with Minimal Sensor-to-Sensor Variations and Enhanced Sensing Characteristics. ACS Nano. 12, 7, 6577–6587. (2018).