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Microscopy

Oxford Nanoimaging to provide desktop super-resolution microscopes

Oxford Nanoimaging (ONI) commence sales of an elegant desktop optical microscope capable of zooming in on objects as tiny as structures inside living cells. This super-resolution microscope will allow scientists to watch how individual molecules perform chemical reactions in real-time.

ONI's microscope, the Nanoimager, has the footprint of a desktop computer, is about 30 times smaller and significantly less expensive than current super-resolution microscopes, and it will be manufactured in the UK.

ONI have raised £1.2m in a seed funding round from Oxford Sciences Innovation plc, Oxford Technology Management and Oxford-based investors Barnaby Martin and George Robinson.

This super-resolution microscope - developed by an interdisciplinary team led by Professor Achillefs Kapanidis and PhD student, Bo Jing, at Oxford's Department of Physics - uses precise, rapid imaging of single fluorescent molecules and sophisticated software to generate striking images which differentiate objects spaced as close as 20 nanometers, a distance 200 times smaller than the length of an E. coli bacterium. This high performance offers much sharper images of live cells than conventional optical microscopy which is limited by diffraction.

Image: Oxford Nanoimaging CEO, Jeremy Warren, with co-inventors/co-founders, Bo Jing and Professor Achillefs Kapanidis.

Professor Kapanidis said: "The new microscope will take single-molecule imaging out of physics labs and centralised facilities, and into the hands of the chemist, the biologist, the biotechnologist. It is not only an excellent instrument for super-resolution imaging, but also a versatile, user-friendly toolbox that will help new users innovate with single molecules as their new currency."

The new microscope can also help study how the tiny "biological machines" within cells assemble or break down biological structures such as proteins. These powerful capabilities can be exploited to screen chemical libraries for drug discovery, and to develop new generations of biosensors for detecting pathogens or disease markers. "It will unlock the users' imagination and creativity," Kapanidis said, "I wish I had this when I was a graduate student."

Oxford Nanoimaging CEO Jeremy Warren said: "With Oxford Nanoimaging, we aim to democratise the use of super-resolution microscopy. Scientists who don't have a lab equipped with specialist physics kit and a large budget can still access the information this very powerful technology provides. We anticipate that by our second year, 90 per cent of sales will be to groups outside of the UK creating a strong exporting business."

Isis Innovation managing director Linda Naylor said: "In 2014, three prominent physicists won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for starting super-resolution fluorescence microscopy and "bringing optical microscopy into the nano-dimension". This Oxford spinout will make this advance accessible across the scientific world."

Isis Innovation in profile
Isis Innovation is the research and technology commercialisation company of the University of Oxford. We provide access to technology from Oxford researchers through intellectual property licensing, spinout company formation and material sales, and to academic expertise through Oxford University Consulting.

Isis is the highest university patent filer in the UK and is ranked 1st in the UK for university spin-outs, having created over 110 new companies in 25 years. In the last financial year we completed 529 licenses and consulting agreements. Isis Enterprise, our innovation management consultancy, works with university, government and industrial clients from offices around the world.

Isis was named 'Technology Transfer Unit of the Year 2014' by Global University Venturing and in 2015 Isis Enterprise was awarded a Queen's Award for Enterprise (International Trade).

For updates on innovations from Oxford, follow Isis on LinkedIn and Twitter or subscribe at: www.isis-innovation.com

Oxford Nanoimaging in profile
Oxford Nanoimaging Limited is a company originating in the Clarendon Laboratory, Department of Physics at the University of Oxford. Professor Achillefs Kapanidis and PhD student, Bo Jing, lead a collaborative, inter-disciplinary team that has pioneered innovative technologies to produce an elegant benchtop super-resolution microscope. The Nanoimager has a footprint of just 21 cm x 21 cm yet packs the capability of a much larger, conventional microscopy platform delivering super-resolution and single-molecule performance. With a significantly lower cost of entry, researchers will now be able to obtain benchtop nanoscale imaging at a fraction of the price of earlier systems without the need for a large laboratory and skilled operators. As Professor Kapanidis says, "I wish I had this when I was a graduate student."

Oxford Nanoimaging is based at the Clarendon Laboratory. Researchers interested in learning more about the technique are encouraged to contact ONI via the company website, www.oxfordni.com

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