Surface Plasmon Resonance: Technology Overview and Practical Applications

by Greg Emmerich, UW Madison, M.S. in Biotechnology Program, Early Drug Development Class. November 16, 2012


There is a remarkable moment in science that is best described as the “aha!” moment–the moment when some truth about the universe becomes revealed through precise measurement, observation, and deduction. A seemingly unlikely union between mathematics, physics, and biochemistry has given rise to a technology called Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR). The “aha!” moment for SPR came some 30 years ago when it was shown that polarized laser light shined upon a nanolayer of gold at a specific frequency can propagate that specific energy along the surface of the gold, and this propagation is extremely sensitive to any changes to the dielectric environment of the gold. That is, lasers were found to be useful as a lens to the world of the very small, able to detect molecular changes on the nanometer scale. The implications of this discovery continue to be felt as companies continue to improve the technology and tailor it to particular needs. Already SPR has proven useful in the drug discovery and molecular diagnostic fields, and the technology shows much promise in the future. Continue reading


Probiotics, Political Reform, and Creative Design

Probiotics, Political Reform, and Creative Design: Using Badges to Facilitate Innovation.

by Greg Emmerich  December 17, 2011.  UW Madison MS Biotechnology Program: Regulation and Ethics Final.


Understanding of the biological world has increased dramatically since Robert Koch first formulated his postulates connecting microbes to diseases some 120 years ago. Since then, scientists have uncovered much about the physiology, genetics, and ecological role of many bacteria. Scientists have primarily been focused on disease associated with microorganisms, and are just beginning to explore the estimated plethora of activity microbes play in establishing human health through the Human Microbiome Project (HMP). There is still much to be learned, but already it is clear that some bacterial strains have varying levels of benefit for humans. Numerous health-conscious consumers have been looking towards probiotics to help promote good health and possibly stave off illness, and industry is eager to make bold claims to capture that market. Protecting these consumers’ from unsafe products and from being swindled by false claims is the role of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Currently there is much debate over the regulation of probiotics and prebiotics. Finding an appropriate solution to the problem requires a creative approach. To aid consumers in evaluating health claims on products and to incentivize more research to be conducted, a simple solution of improving the labeling on those products is suggested. Creating a new regulatory category for probiotics and prebiotics may be appropriate if measures of efficacy can be demonstrated more convincingly. Continue reading