Advisory Board

Professor Sylvain M. Martel

The New Scientist article Bacteria take fantastic voyage through bloodstream said

Canadian engineers have sent swimming magnetic bacteria through the bloodstreams of rats. The work is a step towards the team’s goal of harnessing them as drug mules steered through human bodies using magnetic fields.
Microscopic machines have proven attractive to medics trying to make treatments ever more targeted and less invasive than surgery. But although it is now possible to make micromachines from individual molecules, providing them with power is another matter.
Propulsion systems or even swimming motions that work at larger scales don’t work when scaled down because of the treacly forces that dominate fluids at microscopic scales.
Sylvain Martel’s team at the École Polytechnique de Montréal in Canada think tapping the skills of bacteria that have evolved to swim with ease at the microscopic scale is the best solution.

Sylvain M. Martel, Eng., Ph.D., FCAE is Associate Professor and Director of the NanoRobotics Laboratory, Department of Computer and Software Engineering, Institute of Biomedical Engineering, École Polytechnique de Montréal. He is also Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering.
Sylvain earned his Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering from McGill University, Institute of Biomedical Engineering, Montréal, Canada, in 1997. Following postdoctoral studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), he was appointed Research Scientist at the BioInstrumentation Laboratory, Department of Mechanical Engineering at MIT. From February 2001 to September 2004, he had dual appointments at MIT and as Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at École Polytechnique de Montréal (EPM), Campus of the University of Montréal, Montréal, Canada.
Sylvain holds the Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Micro/Nanosystem Development, Fabrication, and Validation since 2001. He has over 120 refereed publications, several patents, gives several invited presentations annually, and he is an active member in many international committees and organizations worldwide.
Sylvain coauthored Three-legged wireless miniature robots for mass-scale operations at the sub-atomic scale, Method of Propulsion of a Ferromagnetic Core in the Cardiovascular System Through Magnetic Gradients Generated by an MRI System, Controlled manipulation and actuation of micro-objects with magnetotactic bacteria, Automatic navigation of an untethered device in the artery of a living animal using a conventional clinical magnetic resonance imaging system, Microelectrode Array Fabrication by Electrical Discharge Machining and Chemical Etching, and Preliminary investigation of the feasibility of magnetic propulsion for future microdevices in blood vessels.
His patents include Dynamically reconfigurable hardware system for real-time control of processes, Microstructured arrays for cortex interaction and related methods of manufacture and use, Method and system for controlling micro-objects or micro-particles, and Method and system for propelling and controlling displacement of a microrobot in a blood vessel.
His main expertise is in the field of nanorobotics, micro- and nano-systems, and the development of novel instrumented platforms and a variety of related support technologies targeted mainly for biomedical and bioengineering applications, and nanotechnology. He has a vast experience in electronics, computer engineering, and has also worked extensively in biomedical and mechanical engineering.
Sylvain has developed several innovative systems including the first parallel computer specialized for remote micro-surgeries, new medical systems used worldwide for isochronal and isopotential direct cardiac mappings capable to operate under cardiac defibrillations, and enabling world leading cardiologists to better understand the causes of sudden cardiac death and ventricular fibrillation. He developed new types of computers and networks, hundreds of other electronic systems including dynamically reconfigurable networked control systems, and developed with internationally renowned neurologists at Brown University, new brain-machine implants and interfaces.
Presently, Sylvain leads a multidisciplinary team involved in research and development of new instrumented platforms mainly for the medical field and in bioengineering. He is also involved in the development of nano-factories based on a fleet of scientific instruments configured as autonomous miniature robots capable of high throughput screening in biotechnology and autonomous operations at the molecular scale. He is also active in the development of minimally invasive tools based on microdevices propelled in the blood vessels by magnetic gradients generated by Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) systems for tumor targeting and other applications.
He is also working on the development of biosensors designed to be navigated through the blood vessels that could potentially be targeted at the brain for non-invasive recording and imaging of brain activities with high spatial resolution. He is also developing various microsystems using and integrating magnetotactic bacteria as computer controlled functional components for various applications including but not limited to the fast detection of pathogenic bacteria and as bio-carriers for drug delivery in cancer therapy. As such, he is leading highly interdisciplinary projects that include Micro-Electro-Mechanical System (MEMS), System-on-Chip (SoC)-based microsystems, microbiology, nanotechnology, and many other fields.
Beside his academic and industrial experience, between 1976 and 2004, Sylvain had several positions in the Canadian Naval Reserve, including 8 years as ship’s diver and supervisor, and many years as navigator, operations officer, etc., and participated in several NATO exercises. From 1994 to 2004, he was acting as warship commanding officer involved mainly in coastal defense operations along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
Watch Nano-robot that controls herd of live bacteria.