2015 Beckman Symposium   

Andrea K. Bryan, PhD

Presentation Date:

Andrea K. Bryan, PhD

Microfluidics in Diagnostics – From Molecule to Cell

Firefly BioWorks, Inc.

Director of Engineering


We have used a microfluidic mass sensor to measure single-cell mass, volume, and density. By weighing each cell in two fluids of different densities, our technique measures the single-cell mass, volume, and density of approximately 500 cells per hour with a density precision of 0.001 g mL−1. We find that the intrinsic cell-to-cell variation in density is nearly 100-fold smaller than the mass or volume variation, and by simultaneously measuring density and mass, we identify distinct subpopulations of diseased and healthy cells.  We demonstrate this with four examples: identifying Plasmodium falciparum malaria- infected erythrocytes in a culture, distinguishing transfused blood cells from a patient’s own blood, identifying irreversibly sickled cells in a sickle cell patient, and identifying leukemia cells in the early stages of responding to a drug treatment.

Andrea K. Bryan, PhD, is the Director of Engineering at Cambridge-based, biotech-startup Firefly BioWorks, Inc.  Dr. Bryan earned her PhD and was a postdoctoral fellow in Biological Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  At MIT, she combined microfluidic engineering with biology to develop the first sensor to simultaneously measure single-cell mass, volume, and density.  In addition to being a Beckman Scholar (2003-2004), Dr. Bryan is the recipient of a Siebel Scholarship, NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, and MIT Presidential Graduate Fellowship.  Following her postgraduate work, Dr. Bryan joined Firefly BioWorks, Inc, a dynamic startup that develops smart reagents to enable rapid validation of diagnostic signatures.  At Firefly, Dr. Bryan re-engineered the original microfluidic instrumentation used in Firefly’s manufacturing in order to effectively scale processes beyond projected commercial demands and she continues to embrace everything startup life throws at her.

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