Lab 4.0: The Rise of Smart Biosensors


By LifETIME CDT Student: Imen Boumar (She/Her) (University of Birmingham)

In our fast-paced, technology-driven world, smart biosensors are quietly revolutionizing various fields, from healthcare and environmental monitoring to food safety and specifically cell therapy technologies. These tiny, but powerful devices have the potential to transform how we collect and analyze data, offering real-time insights that were once unimaginable. In this blog, we’ll deep-dive into the world of smart biosensors, exploring their applications in the cell and gene therapy process and the exciting future they promise.

The Problem

The cell and gene therapy (CGT) market is estimated to reach £75 billion by the year 2030, with more than 20 CGTs approved by the FDA in the past 20 years. These therapies so far have provided life-saving cures in a variety of illnesses that were previously untreatable through traditional medicines. Despite the huge advancements and benefits of CGTs, they remain inaccessible to many potential patients. Currently, CGT therapies range in price between £30k to £1.6 million for each treatment. This has led to a push by biotech and pharmaceutical companies to improve the manufacturing processes of these therapies. The CBT manufacturing processes still require significant improvements to make them more accessible to patients. Namely, the integration of clinical efficacy processes and quality assurance that are currently implemented by offline methods like multistep competitive ELISA assays.

Figure 1

The Solution

We are addressing this challenge by integrating smart biosensors into bioreactors for continuous cell therapy process monitoring. The biosensors will incorporate stimuli-responsive technology that allows for the biosensor to be switched on or off for on-demand sensing of cell-produced therapeutic proteins.

This concept takes it to the next level by integrating cutting-edge technologies such as microelectrodes, nanotechnology, and synthetic biology. This convergence empowers biosensors to deliver more sophisticated and valuable information than ever before. As opposed to current sensors that freely bind the moment they are in contact with the target cell-produced therapeutic proteins, switch biosensors can be automated to only bind to the target proteins when the user requires detection readings.

Figure 2

Figure 2

Challenges and Future Prospects

While smart biosensors hold immense promise, they also face several challenges. Ensuring the reliability and accuracy of data is paramount, as errors in healthcare monitoring can have significant consequences. It is extremely crucial that smart biosensors perform as well as the current gold standard in therapeutics’ quality control for it to be integrated into the stringent Good Manufacturing Practice standards.

Successfully developing the switch biosensor will allow us to embed the detection of hundreds of different molecules and proteins within a single sensor. In the future, we can expect even more advanced smart biosensors with improved sensitivity, specificity and through-put. They will continue to play a crucial role in personalized medicine, which will contribute to a healthier population and more accessible therapies.


Smart biosensors represent a remarkable leap in analytical technology, offering a myriad of applications that benefit human health, the environment, and industry. As research and development in this field continue to advance, we can anticipate the expansion of smart biosensors into other health-based applications, such as smart watches, robotics and immunoassay tests.