Fluorescence and luminescence analyser

Challenge

Design and engineer a fluorescence and luminescence microplate reader for high throughput analysis.

Approach

We deployed a cross-functional team to solve various optical, exterior design and prototyping challenges.

Outcome

The first set of prototypes were built and tested in our facilities and the LEADseeker™ system was successfully launched as a fully automated plate reader capable of scanning and processing over a 1000 microplates per day.

Project background

The brief was to design a fluorescence and luminescence reader system for high throughput analysis of high-density microplates, with robust, reliable optics and a simple user interface. The system had to support a broad application range and needed to work with multiple laboratory assays and user configurations.

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Rapid, flexible imaging

To achieve the fast processing required, the system needed to image a whole micro-plate in one go. Imaging such a large area prevents having to index the plates accurately, but poses a significant challenge for conventional lens types: shadowing can occur in the wells furthest from the centre of the imaging field.

A complex diagnostics system

The requirements of the device meant that we had to use a camera based around a back-illuminated Charged Coupled Device chip, which was designed to improve low-light performance and work with our client’s chemistry. This camera had to be mounted in a light-tight case and required cooling via an external refrigeration unit to minimise thermal noise.

We decided to use a custom high-performance telecentric lens and a large footprint CCD. This allowed us to achieve high resolution imaging across the whole microplate.

Automated operation

To make the system entirely hands-free we automated the selection of both the emission and excitation filters. The filter automation allowed for a selection of six excitation wavelengths and four emission wavelengths. The plates themselves could be loaded automatically and the system was designed to be interfaced with automatic plate-loading robots.

We also improved the user interface. This included an easy plate loading and unloading solution housed in a sleek outer design.

In-house prototype build

While the formal transfer to volume manufacture took place, we built and tested a set of 20 prototypes in our Cambridge facilities. LEADseeker™ was able to automate production of high-resolution images and interrogate the luminescence and fluorescence of the samples.

The system enabled high-throughput analysis, imaging plates in seconds. The automation process allowed for hundreds of plates to be processed resulting in a significant asset in applications such as drug discovery and diagnostic screening.

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