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.

At a glance

Sector
Diagnostics

Services
Product Development
Optics
UI Development

Client
Amersham Biosciences

Team staff on project
10

A fluorescence and luminescence analyser

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.

We applied a systems approach to develop custom optics, electronics and mechanical modules. This enabled us to deliver a system capable of multiple excitation and emission wavelengths with even illumination from the excitation sources. We considered the manufacturing processes throughout the development ensuring the system could be produced and assembled efficiently by the eventual manufacturer.

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.

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.

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.

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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