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6 July, 2006 - 12:47 By Staff Reporter

Ipswich company developing 'CSI' forensic instrument

CIP in Ipswich has won a contract to help develop a pioneering portable DNA analyser for use at scenes of crime. CIP in Ipswich has won a contract to help develop a pioneering portable DNA analyser for use at scenes of crime.

As part of a project funded by EPSRC, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Council, CIP will develop a miniature optical detection and analysis system and integrate it with a micro-fluidic 'lab-on-a-chip' being developed by the University of Hull.

The technology could revolutionise evidence gathering, allowing DNA fingerprinting to take place before a crime scene becomes contaminated, and eliminating the delays involved in current laboratory-based analysis.

The project is led by a team from the University of Hull, who are developing a disposable micro-fluidic device for extracting DNA samples, and amplifying them using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique. A solid-state microwave component - to be developed by Richardson Electronics - will provide a compact and power-efficient means of generating the heat needed for PCR.

CIP will implement the next link in the chain, an electrophoretic separation step coupled with an optical detection system that will stimulate and detect fluorescence in the sample, in order to identify the DNA fragments present. This will involve the development of a miniaturised light source to induce fluorescence, together with an optical detector and data processing system.

CIP will also act as the system integrator, combining and packaging all the elements to create a compact portable instrument. This will involve the precision interfacing of a plastic or glass micro-fluidic device, with the microwave heating element, and a detection system that is likely to have electronic LED and photodiode components together with lenses and thin-film filters. The system will also have an embedded computer system to process the data into meaningful information and communicate results.

"Our experience in designing and fabricating complex optical devices for telecommunications applications using novel solid-state and hybrid integration techniques provides a good foundation for this project," notes Steve Oliver, project manager at CIP. "We also have to interface with a micro-fluidic device, which is a challenge, but one which could lay the foundation for substantial progress in many areas, from crime fighting to highly sophisticated point-of-care medical devices."

Professor Steve Haswell of the University of Hull, who is leading the three-year initiative, said: "Our team has the expertise in chemistry, chemical engineering, cell biology, physics and engineering to enable us to take on this challenge successfully."

The UK's Forensic Science Service and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Porton Down) are also assisting the project team with advice on the end use of the system.

EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Council), the UK Government's leading funding agency for research and training in engineering and the physical sciences, is providing funding of almost three quarters of a million pounds to the project, of which CIP's share is £215,000.

CIP Ltd, based at Adastral Park,is a leading supplier of advanced photonic hybrid integrated circuits and InP based optoelectronic chips, devices and modules for communications, biomedical, defence and industrial markets.

It is also a major provider of technical services and consultancy in the photonics field. With 500 years of combined expertise in photonics, CIP refines research into viable products based on leading edge technologies, thus helping customers develop the photonic products of tomorrow.

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