A prototype electronic sensor that emits current when it detects the anticancer drug afimoxifene. Rice University synthetic biologists created the device to demonstrate a new method that could slash the costs of creating wearable monitors for precision, automated drug dosing of chemotherapies and other drugs. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

Biologists have found a way to piggyback on the glucose monitoring technology used in automated insulin dosing systems and make it universally applicable for the monitoring and dosing of virtually any drug. The team modifed a blood-glucose sensor to detect the anticancer drug afimoxifene, an estrogen inhibitor that patient’s bodies also make after they take the chemotherapy tamoxifen.

By building on mature biosensing technology that’s commercially available at most drug stores for under $20, they hope to speed the development of automated dosing systems for chemotherapies and other drugs as well as other technologies for real-time monitoring of biomarkers in the blood.

The lab is already working on both ways to improve the sensitivity of glucose-based drug tests and methods to rapidly identify glucose-oxidizing proteins that can detect drugs other than afimoxifene. A key feature of the technology is that it produces an electrical output.