Bio-chemical assay locking to thwart bio-IP theft

Sukanta Bhattacharjee, Jack Tang, Sudip Poddar, Mohamed Ibrahim, Ramesh Karri, Krishnendu Chakrabarty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is expected that as digital microfluidic biochips (DMFBs) mature, the hardware design flow will begin to resemble the current practice in the semiconductor industry: design teams send chip layouts to third-party foundries for fabrication. These foundries are untrusted and threaten to steal valuable intellectual property (IP). In a DMFB, the IP consists of not only hardware layouts but also of the biochemical assays (bioassays) that are intended to be executed on-chip. DMFB designers therefore must defend these protocols against theft. We propose to “lock” biochemical assays by inserting dummy mix-split operations. We experimentally evaluate the proposed locking mechanism, and show how a high level of protection can be achieved even on bioassays with low complexity. We also demonstrate a new class of attacks that exploit the side-channel information to launch sophisticated attacks on the locked bioassay.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5
JournalACM Transactions on Design Automation of Electronic Systems
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2019


  • Bioassay
  • Digital microfluidic biochip
  • IP-theft
  • Locking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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