Detecting and quantifying biomarkers and viruses in biological samples have broad applications in early disease diagnosis and treatment monitoring. We have demonstrated a label-free optical sensing mechanism using nanostructured photonic crystals (PC) to capture and quantify intact viruses (HIV-1) from biologically relevant samples. The nanostructured surface of the PC biosensor resonantly reflects a narrow wavelength band during illumination with a broadband light source. Surface-adsorbed biotarget induces a shift in the resonant Peak Wavelength Value (PWV) that is detectable with <10 pm wavelength resolution, enabling detection of both biomolecular layers and small number of viruses that sparsely populate the transducer surface. We have successfully captured and detected HIV-1 in serum and phosphate buffered saline (PBS) samples with viral loads ranging from 10(4) to 10(8) copies/mL. The surface density of immobilized biomolecular layers used in the sensor functionalization process, including 3-mercaptopropyltrimethoxysilane (3-MPS), N-gamma-Maleimidobutyryl-oxysuccinimide ester (GMBS), NeutrAvidin, anti-gp120, and bovine serum albumin (BSA) were also quantified by the PC biosensor.