Innovative technologies to develop cancer and virus bio-markers

Title of the research project

ANFIBIO - AmplificatioN Free Identification of cancer and viral biomarkers via plasmonic nanoparticles and liquid BIOpsy

Scientific area

Bioengineering, Material Science, Nanotechnology


ANFIBIO project will develop a set of technologies and advanced sensors to detect and quantify cancer and viral bio-markers in bodily fluids, making simpler, faster and more economical the diagnosis of many diseases.

Description of the research project 

Liquid biopsy, the detection of circulating disease biomarkers in bodily fluids such as blood, is a non-invasive method, alternative to tissue removal, that has taken important strides toward the implementation of personalized medicine, especially in the case of tumors and viral infections. However, the method still suffers from low sensitivity and is highly expensive, which renders its clinical implementation not practical or affordable.

The aim of ANFIBIO is to make this method more precise and less expensive, through the use of gold nanoparticles with intrinsic amplification capability for surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy. The technique is based on the enhancement of the Raman scattering, that is the inelastic scattering of photons by a matter sample, which gives information about the chemical composition and molecular structure of the analyte.

Besides the development of plasmonic (i.e., resonating to illumination with visible and near infrared light, thanks to the collective oscillations of the electron plasma - plasmons) gold and star-shaped nanoparticles, ANFIBIO will use Artificial Intelligence techniques to make the electromagnetic spectrum analysis faster and more precise. Practically, the central idea of the project is to develop new DNA and RNA reading technologies through the interpretation of SERS spectra for small sequences of nucleobases (i.e., “genetic letters”), which can then be leveraged to read longer “genetic words”, and thus used to interpret and decode real data.

Impact on society 

ANFIBIO will use prostate cancer DNA and influenza A viral RNA in blood, urine, and saliva as case studies. The result will be a “package” of advanced sensors and technologies to detect and quantify tumor and viral biomarkers in bodily fluids. ANFIBIO will develop technological approaches with a wider impact on the biomedical sector. Indeed, the achieved results and the methods implemented in the project will be applied to other tumors and other virus using RNA as genetic material, such as SARS-CoV-2, the COVID-19 virus.

Short CV of project coordinator

Graduation and Ph.D. in Chemistry at the University of Padova, Laura Fabris has joined Politecnico di Torino, as Full professor based at the Department of Applied Science and Technology, after being Assistant and Associate professor at Rutgers University – School of Engineering in USA since 2009. She has held visiting professor positions at Ludwig Maximilians University (Germany), Institut Pasteur (France), Air Force Research Lab (USA), National University of Singapore. Her research interests focus on the synthesis, functionalization, characterization, and application of plasmonic nanoparticles, with emphasis on gold, silver, and aluminum. Her main expertise is in the biological application of surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS), with main focus on sensing and imaging tags.

ANFIBIO project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme  grant agreement No 865819

  • Budget: 2.725.510 euro
  • Start date: 1/06/2021
  • End date: 31/05/2026