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Periodic Reporting for period 1 - LABELFREE (LABEL FREE IMAGING WITH PHI-SCAT)

Reporting period: 2019-05-01 to 2021-04-30

This project has allowed LUMICKS to develop a prototype and explore the market potential for a new label free imaging modality for the C-Trap optical tweezers platform. The power of the technology was demonstrated using live cell imaging and preliminary single molecule experiments. LUMICKS will continue developments to push sensitivity and imaging speed before introducing the modality on the C-Trap platform. Currently LUMICKS C-Trap technology enables researchers to manipulate and image single molecules using a combination of optical tweezers and fluorescence microscopy. The need to fluorescently label molecules before imaging can be challenging and potentially even interfere with the molecular interactions under scrutiny. Furthermore, single molecule fluorescence techniques come with a few intrinsic drawbacks (e.g. the need for labelling steps, limited signal due to photobleaching, limited photon flux which limits imaging speed). Successful application of this new label free microscopy method in academic and pharmaceutical research will have profound impact on the understanding of key biological processes and optimization of drug discovery. The objectives of the project are mapping of the market requirements for a successful product, the development of a label free imaging module for the LUMICKS C-Trap product and the development of marketing materials and a sales strategy.
Market requirements have been explored and documented. Various implementations of the imaging modality have been explored and evaluated and the most promising implementation has been selected for further product development. We have invested in development of faster imaging sensors in order to address one of the most important market requirements. The current implementation does not yet achieve the single molecule sensitivity we need for successful market launch. After this project LUMICKS will keep pushing developments to improve sensitivity.
Using our proof-of-concept implementation developed with support from this project we have demonstrated the ability to create very high-contrast images that outperform other state-of-the art label free imaging techniques such as differential interference contrast (DIC) microscopy. The expected single molecule sensitivity has not been achieved yet. LUMICKS plans to keep developing the technology in order to achieve the full impact on research and drug discovery.
phi-SCAT image of a cheek epithelial cell demonstrating high contrast and sensitivity