The development of novel fabrication methods, materials and surface chemistries to implement nucleic acid analysis brings reduced cost, reduced reagent consumption, increased analysis efficiency, portability, ease of use and reliability to todays genomic approach. This trend, as evident by the exponential growth in the number of patent applications, granted patents and commercialized systems, is motivated by the promise for significant breakthroughs and benefits of nucleic acid analysis to drug discovery and point-of-care diagnosis. This review paper aims at identifying the enabling technologies and key patents in microfluidics for nucleic acid analysis. In particular, it seeks to identify granted and pending patents for cell sorting and lysis, nucleic acid extraction and purification, followed by nucleic acid amplification, separation and detection. Additionally, it presents an overview of the current intellectual property environment and seeks to identify trends for the future development. Much of this development is geared increasingly toward fully integrated systems. The convergence of technology and interdisciplinary interests is expected to foster further breakthroughs and commercialization.
Keywords: Microfluidic nucleic acid analysis, cell sorting, cell lysis, nucleic acid extraction, nucleic acid separation, polymerase chain reaction, electrophoresis, integrated systems, Lab-on-a-Chip
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