Case study: Dr Philippe Laissue

Industry Fellow, 2015-2018
University of Essex and Cairn Research
Lightsheet illumination modules for low-phototoxicity fluorescence microscopy

Can we observe without disturbing? 

This is the holy grail that Phil Laissue is trying to bring us closer to with the research conducted as part of his Royal Society Industry Fellowship.  Driven by a lifelong fascination, and inspired by recent Nobel Prize winners working in the field of advanced microscopy techniques, his work on live imaging develops and improves microscopy techniques to use as little light as possible to follow biological events as they unfold. It is crucial for these low light level microscopy techniques to be developed in order to ensure that accurate data can be obtained from specimens which would otherwise have been damaged by conventional high light level techniques.

As a Microscopy Facility Manager responsible for supporting academic work and running the university microscopy facility, Dr Laissue applied for this fellowship to allow him to pursue a personal research project in a fascinating field with a huge potential for impact. He now splits his time between looking after all things bioimaging at the facility at the University of Essex, and extensively testing a single plane illuminator developed with Cairn Research, a small independent UK manufacturer of scientific instruments. Dr Laissue’s research uses reef-building corals which are very sensitive to high light, and thus the perfect model organism for testing the effects of microscopy on biological samples.

The Royal Society Industry Fellowship has allowed Dr Laissue to work on a new technical area, light-sheet microscopy which has yielded a novel commercial product. He has also co-organized the Light-Sheet Fluorescence Microscopy Conference in Sheffield in 2016, taught on several renowned microscopy courses, and is publishing studies on the effect of light on living cells – and how to minimize it.

The fellowship has given him the opportunity to use unique equipment at his industry partner’s facility, giving him industrial experience and allowing him to focus on instrument development. By freeing him up from teaching duties and instead focusing on his personal research, Dr Laissue has been able to obtain funding for several grants including a prestigious overseas grant directly leading on from his research carried out from the Industry Fellowship. He has also attended the Royal Society’s Innovation Course training on entrepreneurship, and made good use of the Royal Society library.

The collaborative development of a novel low light level microscopy product, the Large Selective Plane Illuminator, with his industry partner has given Dr Laissue exclusive insight into product design and commercial development. The benefits of the fellowship have extended to Dr Laissue’s university who are able to add value to grant proposals by including industry co-investigators, and including his work in their impact case studies in line with the Research Excellence Framework. In addition to the development of a new commercial product, Dr Laissue’s collaboration has benefitted his industry partner by allowing them to cover a new area of microscopy and attract further collaborators to develop and commercialise future products. 

Find further information regarding Dr Laissue's work.