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Technology Development

A collage including a microscope and a person

BBD leverages unique intellectual and technical resources at NIST as well as our scientist and engineers’ expertise in biometrology to develop novel and robust technologies to support stakeholder needs. We focus on developing new or existing technologies to improve measurements or to provide orthogonal methods. Our work supports various sectors of the bioeconomy, including engineering biology, advanced therapies, precision medicine, and microbiome.

Listed below are examples of current activities and products that fit into the toolkit of our engineering biology, genomics, advanced imaging, and tissue engineering programs.  





Precision Engineering of Genetic Sensors

Genetic sensors are the key enabling component for many proposed next generation biotechnology products, such as engineered living therapeutics or structured biomaterials synthesis. NIST is using high-throughput DNA sequencing and laboratory automation to develop a scalable, generalizable workflow for the precision engineering of made-to-specification genetic sensors.






Genome in a Bottle

GIAB developed the first benchmark of large structural changes that occur in the human genome, which will enable clinical translation and technology development for detection of diseases associated with these difficult-to-detect changes, including the technologies below (preprint is at 

  • GIAB benchmarks helped demonstrate the performance of a new nanopore-based technology to efficiently assemble 11 human genomes in 10 days, resolving many difficult genomic regions (preprint at 
  • Companies use GIAB tools as their internal R&D quality standard; resulting in rapid advancements for their sequencing platform, and novel disease gene discovery. For example, NIST collaborated with a team led by PacBio to benchmark performance of a new highly-accurate long DNA sequencing technology (







BCARS spectroscopy and microscopy

Broadband coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering (BCARS) technologies non-destructively probe the chemical composition of material and biological samples without exogenous labels, enabling the imaging of cells, tissues, and materials in minutes. This effort includes improved hardware, analysis methods, and machine learning techniques to identify and quantify chemical composition.


High-Sensitivity QCL-IR Spectroscopy

This new mid-infrared (IR) absorption spectroscopy relies on quantum cascade laser (QCL) technology to quantify biological samples in their native environment – water, providing 100 times better sensitivity versus traditional mid-IR.


Quantum BioImaging

Novel imaging modalities are being established to harness the quantum nature of light, which may improve sensitivity and resolution while significantly reducing light exposure of the sample.


3D Molecular Orientation Imaging

Molecular anisotropy in biomaterials and medical implants impacts clinical performance but cannot be readily measured.  A new 3D-orientation microscope is under development for rapid, non-invasive, optical imaging with diffraction-limited spatial resolution to quantify molecular anisotropy in situ.



Quantitative Brightfield Absorbance Imaging (QBAM) uses a garden variety light microscope, without any additional hardware, to measure light-absorbing samples for quantitative, reproducible imaging. The ratiometric approach enables data comparability across microscopes, operators, and locations and is attractive for biomanufacturing of cells and tissues.


Real-time Measurement of Multiple Polymerization Properties

NIST Standard Reference Instrument (SRI) 6005 is a polymerization tensometer developed to simultaneously quantify multiple polymerization parameters in real time during the curing of polymers and their composites.


High Resolution SPRI

Surface Plasmon Resonance Imaging (SPRI) is a label-free surface sensitive microscopy technique that can measure cell-matrix interactions but suffers from poor spatial resolution.  A new SPRI microscope has been developed that provides diffraction-limited spatial resolution along with quantitative interpretation - dry mass values of subcellular components can now be measured.




Name Description Contact

Measurements of Cell Viability in Scaffolds

A model scaffold-cell-assay system is being developed to measure cell viability in scaffolds in conjunction with an ASTM working group of tissue engineering industry stakeholders.  The model system will be applied to assess advanced viability methods, including non-invasive imaging.



Deputy Chief

Created March 17, 2020, Updated June 2, 2021