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Image shows a Veterinarian Doctor examining a dog's infected ear using an ear inspection instrument.
Image shows a Veterinarian Doctor examining a dog's infected ear using an ear inspection instrument.


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      It’s no surprise that COVID-19 has generated a wave of interest and innovation in electrochemical biosensor development. With better biosensing sensors and readers, healthcare providers have a quick aid to make the correct diagnosis and treatment—not only for COVID, but also for many other diseases ranging from malaria and tuberculosis to bacterial infections.

      It’s not that electrochemical biosensor innovators have overlooked this need. The opportunity here is self-evident. But to create a better testing solution, expertise in electrochemistry is not enough; measurement and sensing expertise are also needed. For example, a potentiostat is an electric circuit that senses changes in a cell’s resistance and adjusts the current accordingly through an auxiliary electrode. This device is an essential piece of electronic hardware for control and measuring in most electroanalytical experiments. But basic or not, for those innovating in the electrochemical biosensor space, recognizing the electrochemical signature of a virus or bacteria is likely the easy part, while building products or readers like a potentiostat could take years of research, and trial and error.

      The EmStat Pico potentiostat module by Analog Devices, Inc. (ADI) and PalmSens eliminates the need for potentiostat knowledge when creating electrochemical biosensor technology—and with it, the need for biosensor innovators to spend time and money to either hire experts or become experts themselves. By partnering with PalmSens on this standalone potentiostat module, ADI has helped fill in the gaps so innovators can get lifesaving products to market more quickly.



      Founded in 2001 by Dr. Kees van Velzen, PalmSens provides a comprehensive range of instruments for most types of electrochemistry with an emphasis on mobility. Their mission is to make electrochemistry easier, more portable, and more accessible for novice and advanced researchers and entrepreneurs.


      • Healthcare
      • Environmental monitoring
      • Food safety
      • Veterinary care
      • Condition monitoring


      Combine PalmSens’ electrochemical biosensor technology with ADI’s leading signal processing expertise to create a potentiostat that is faster, smaller, and lower power than its laboratory equivalent without sacrificing accuracy—and make it easy for innovators to implement, even if they have never designed with potentiostats.


      Develop an electrochemical biosensor platform that helps innovators fill in technical gaps so they can see their mission bear fruit and bring lifesaving tech to market faster.


      Image shows engineers and data scientist; one female and one male working in a lab. One is on a microscope machine and the other is pushing buttons on data machines.
      Analog Garage, the internal incubator for ADI, brings together engineers, data scientists, and hardware and software experts to create new technologies and solutions in a fast-moving, idea-driven start-up atmosphere.

      Boston-based QSM Diagnostics develops point-of-care veterinary diagnostics for the rapid identification of bacterial infections. The company has several decades of experience in the development and commercialization of sensors and medical devices.

      In 2016, QSM began working with Analog Garage to develop a low cost, portable electrochemical biosensor reader that could deliver the same results as traditional veterinary reference lab equipment, right there in the clinic. Later, when ADI and PalmSens released the EmStat Pico, QSM quickly saw the potential for this newer, smaller potentiostat module to save significant resources in product development compared to designing a similar product in-house.



      “Why reinvent the wheel?”

      Ed Goluch, CEO, QSM


      “We’ve put all our efforts into the testing chemistry and didn’t have to worry about the electronics that were going to perform that measurement,” said Ed Goluch, CEO, QSM. “Why reinvent the wheel?”

      QSM’s Otter eQ is one of the first products incorporating EmStat Pico by ADI and PalmSens to reach the market and demonstrates the versatility of a potentiostat as a biosensor reader for point-of-care applications—today, for your dog; tomorrow, for everyone else.


      In dogs, some ear infections are worse than others. Those caused by the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa can be tricky to detect and require a different course of treatment. But to determine whether this type of bacteria is the culprit, vets must send samples away to a laboratory and wait for results, meanwhile treating your family pet the best they can with incomplete data.

      Image shows a female veterinarian taking a swab sample from a dog's ear within a clinic setting.


      QSM set out to create an electrochemical biosensor and reader that provides diagnostics right in the office, with results available by the next morning or even before your dog leaves the clinic. The instrument is both fast and extremely portable due to the embedded EmStat Pico form factor of 30 mm × 6 mm.

      A Graphic image showing the Otter EQ device and the size relationship of the EmStat Pico Analog Devices' sensor chip. The sensor measures: 30 millimeters by 6 Millimeters.
      Headshot image of the Palmsens CEO, Willem van Velzen.
      “Having a lab in your pocket means you don't need the regular lab. Instead of waiting a day or more, it will give you a result within two minutes.”

      Willem van Velzen

      CEO, PalmSens



      The current generation of Otter eQ detects a single type of bacteria, but the reader has the potential to be used with multiple sensors, which are currently under development. So, there is no need to develop a new reader with every sensor. Soon enough, the Otter eQ will be able to test multiple types of animals for a variety of infections. Future versions may function more like a blood panel, testing for multiple pathogens on a single cartridge.

      The latest ADI offerings will enable QSM to scale from B2B markets into B2C territory in the future. Making Otter eQ available to consumers would help lighten the load for overbooked veterinary clinics, either by sparing pet owners unnecessary visits to the vet or by enabling remote appointment follow-ups to ensure prescribed treatments have done their job.


      A graphic image showing Step 1 for how the Otter EQ works: a human hand and swab stick. This is near dogs ear to swab a sample.


      Obtain sample, in this case by swabbing the inside of the dog’s affected ear.

      A graphic image showing Step 2 for how the Otter EQ works: an illustration of Otter EQ device, it's cartridge and the swab sample being placed on the sensor area.


      Insert single-use sensor cartridge, mix sample with pre-measured buffer, and apply to cartridge.

      A graphic image showing Step 3 for how the Otter EQ works: illustration shows OtterEQ and OTTER QSM Sensor with sample of bacteria on the sensor. A clock describes the time it takes to read.


      Wait for two minutes and read results. Sensor array allows diagnosis of multiple bacteria on one cartridge.


      “Starting with a product for the point-of-care market for pets greatly reduces regulatory aspects compared to one with humans,” said van Velzen. “It is also a great stepping-stone to point-of-care applications for humans, for which a bright future awaits.”

      QSM technology is already being used to identify herbicides in agricultural water supplies, to monitor drinking water quality, and to check food supplies for pathogens like E. Coli. A cartridge could be calibrated specifically to identify viral particles—or, to monitor other markers that are not infection-related, such as tracking cortisol, cholesterol, or medication use at home.

      “COVID made people realize that there hasn’t been enough work done in this space,” said Goluch. “Glucose meters have been around for 70 years, and we haven’t seen other technologies based on it. Now we’re at a point where we can use that module to test for other things. Our cartridges could detect anything. Just change the chemistry and the platform works.”

      Image shows a female doctor taking a swab sample from a females mouth area to test for viral particles.


      Because the EmStat Pico module could be integrated into QSM’s existing cartridge design, proprietary connections and all, Goluch estimates that QSM reduced its product development time by three years compared to developing a custom solution in-house. Additionally, PalmSens provides software development kits that streamlined the process even further; this allowed QSM to develop a product with very little need for technical support from PalmSens.

      “The motivation for partnering with PalmSens was to be able to deliver that complete solution—a plug and play measurement module,” said Brian Coffey, ADI. “It’s exciting to hear how it is enabling customers to get to market faster with new lifesaving health diagnostic tools.”

      Image shows a dog and their owner playing in a park. The dog is tugging on a dog toy play-rope from owners hands.

      *2017-2018 AVMA Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook