Miniature droplet technology receives Royal Society Enterprise Fund backing

18 November 2010

Technology has application in fields from drug discovery to algal biofuel development.

The Royal Society Enterprise Fund has led an investment syndicate backing Cambridge-based company, Sphere Fluidics. The University of Cambridge spin-out is working on miniature droplet technology which will allow for the rapid identification, analysis and separation of single cells and molecules.

Sphere Fluidics picodroplet technology enables researchers to carry out large numbers of simultaneous reactions contained within small aqueous droplets a fraction of a millimetre in size. When the droplets are merged with others containing, for example, a specific chemical reagent, they effectively act as miniature reaction chambers that can be exposed to a unique set of experimental conditions.

The picodroplet platform was developed by Professors Chris Abell and Wilhelm Huck. The technology has potential uses across a wide variety of fields, including analysis and isolation of unique cell types, biomarker discovery in small volumes, and molecular labelling and separation using proprietary catalysts and conditions. The platform is an alternative to existing techniques, offering greater control and automation, and improved efficiency.

The company was spun-out from the University of Cambridge in March 2010, with initial funding from the University’s Discovery Fund.

Dr Frank F. Craig, CEO of Sphere Fluidics, said:

“This investment, along with the recent signing of research collaboration with a major pharmaceutical firm, is an excellent validation of the potential of Sphere and its unique discovery technology platform. We are excited at working with a prestigious body such as the Royal Society and its new investment arm.”

Sir Peter Williams FRS, Treasurer and Vice-President of The Royal Society, said:

“The Royal Society Enterprise Fund is delighted to have had the opportunity to make this investment in Sphere Fluidics and add it to our growing investment portfolio. Businesses such as Sphere Fluidics, with advanced technology and great commercial potential, often find it difficult to raise funds at the start of their lives. The Enterprise Fund has been set up to support businesses based on outstanding science through this phase. Sphere Fluidics has enormous commercial potential across a range of markets and we look forward to supporting the company in its development.”

Dr Maher Khaled of Cambridge Enterprise, the University of Cambridge’s commercialisation group, said:

“We are pleased to see the continued growth of Sphere Fluidics, and that other funding bodies have similar belief in the potential of their technology.”

The Royal Society Enterprise Fund is a groundbreaking initiative which links philanthropy, business and science. The fund supports early stage new technology enterprises and enhances a culture of scientific innovation in the UK. Since launching the fund-raising activity in February 2008, the Royal Society has raised over £6.5m in gifts and pledges towards the Enterprise Fund.

The Enterprise Fund has previously invested in companies including Base4Innovation, which is working on ultra-fast gene sequencing technology; ‘green’ air filtration company, Nano-Porous Solutions Ltd. (n-psl) and Novacem, developing carbon negative cement.