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Department of Chemistry

Image: Sphere Fluidics

A new device made by Sphere Fluidics – a spin-out company co-founded by researchers from this department – is ranked number one in The Scientist's 2018 list of Top 10 Innovations. 

Biotech company Sphere Fluidics only started selling the Cyto-Mine this summer. A unique single cell analysis system for the biopharmaceutical discovery and development market, it is "essentially the world’s first integrated device specifically designed to automatically perform all the steps in antibody discovery and cell line development workflows," according to Sphere Fluidics sales and marketing director Rob Marchmont.

Sphere Fluidics was co-founded by two researchers working in the Department of Chemistry – Professors Chris Abell and Wilhelm Huck. Wilhelm is now Professor of Chemistry at the Institute for Molecules and Materials, Radboud University Nijmegen, but was formerly Professor of Macromolecular Chemistry (from 2007-12) and Director of the Melville Laboratory for Polymer Synthesis here (2004-10). 

Sphere Fluidics uses ground-breaking biochip systems that automatically process millions to billions of miniaturised tests in tiny picodroplets.  This allows tests on individual cells as well as whole 'libraries' of cells, and enables the study of the mechanism of cancer cell resistance to chemotherapy, the generation of new enzymes and identification of novel microbial strains.  

Cyto-Mine is an alpha-version of this single cell analysis and characterization system, developed for the biopharmaceutical discovery and development market. 

The Scientist says that Cyto-Mine is typical of the winners of this year's Top 10 Innovations competition, in that "many of the exciting laboratory tools that our independent panel of judges selected are geared toward prying open individual cells to access the data contained in their DNA, RNA, and/or proteins. The advantage of capturing these reams of biological information on the level of a single cell is revealing the variety within tissues not detectable in pooled samples. In cancer research, for example, such analyses may allow scientists to more accurately characterize tumor heterogeneity by sampling several thousand rapidly dividing cells on an individual basis to see how they differ from one another."

They add: "We at The Scientist are pleased to present the winners of our 2018 Top 10 Innovations competition, and we look forward to seeing the discoveries that bloom from their adoption."