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20 July, 2020 - 17:23 By Tony Quested

Cross-border alliance to advance droplet technology

Sphere Fluidics droplet generator technology

Cambridge-based Sphere Fluidics has joined forces with Heriot-Watt University in Scotland to develop novel droplet generator instrumentation.

The initiative has been backed by an unspecified Knowledge Transfer Partnership grant from Innovate UK.

The move will expand Sphere Fluidics’ portfolio of microfluidic instruments for advanced biologics discovery and therapeutic cell line development. The cash backing has been granted to Sphere Fluidics in partnership with Dr Graeme Whyte, associate professor at Heriot-Watt. 

The two-year project will develop next-generation intelligent instrumentation and advance research across a range of picodroplet techniques. Pushing back the boundaries will allow scientists to discover rare cell phenotypes and help solve a range of biological questions ranging from antibody discovery to antimicrobial resistance, enzyme evolution and synthetic biology. 

The novel platform for semi-automated picodroplet production will be employed by the Cambridge business to improve control of droplet production, using advanced imaging technology. 

As part of the project, Dr John McGrath has been appointed to Sphere Fluidics’ team as a research scientist in physics and engineering to support the transfer of cutting-edge research into the company’s portfolio of single cell analysis instruments, including for several new commercial products. 

Used by researchers in a number of application areas, Sphere Fluidics’ picodroplet-based technologies provide improved throughput, accuracy, and sensitivity to enable leading-edge research and accelerate biopharmaceutical discovery and development.

Dr Marian Rehak, VP of Research and Development at Sphere Fluidics, said: “This innovative project with Heriot-Watt University will bring together aspects of microfluidic and optical design, technology development and product design engineering to develop a new class of instrument for cell-based picodroplet discovery. 

“The work demonstrates the importance of collaboration between academic and industrial partners to support the advancement of novel microfluidic technologies for ground-breaking research.”

Professor Whyte added: “This partnership will support the rapid translation of academic findings into intelligent technological solutions. The microfluidic platform in development can be utilised by scientists to solve a range of important biological questions across the life sciences sector.”

Dr John McGrath said that the technology had the potential to be a key driver in increasing the uptake of picodroplet microfluidic instruments.

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