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We present a model for predicting photonic crystal label-free biosensor performance based primarily on the spatial distribution of electromagnetic near fields at device resonance. To achieve maximum device sensitivity, the resonant fields can be shaped by careful choice of material and geometrical parameters. The effect of each property on the resonant mode profile, and consequently on sensor performance, is illustrated. A comparison of device sensitivity calculated by both the proposed model and direct rigorous coupled wave analysis simulation supports the validity of our model.