Dolomite have announced the winner of their 2013 Productizing Science competition as Molbot Pte. Ltd. The company submitted the concept of a low-cost bench-top molecular biology “Minilab” for automating molecular biology applications.
Dolomite’s Productizing Science Competition seeks to find innovative microfluidic concepts and give the winner the chance to develop theirs into a commercially successful product and share in the rewards. Molbot’s molecular biology workstation Minilab will utilize microfluidic technology to take traditional sequential manipulations such as PCR assembly, thermal cycling, analysis and purification and perform them ‘on chip’ in an automated way. The concept is to integrate traditional ‘stand-alone’ systems such as imaging, PCR, centrifuge, electrophoresis and pipetting and combine them into one automated system.
The product will be the machine, which will be used with disposable labs-on-chips, different types of which will represent different applications and will be automatically identified by the machine. Users will load the microfluidic chip and necessary reagents in the machine and the Minilab will execute the required functions for the task, meaning that user input is kept to an absolute minimum. The main appeal of the Minilab is that it will be considerably cheaper than existing technology-driven specialist microfluidic products. Focused more on user needs, it will be a product that is useful and attainable for many biology laboratories.
Dolomite were impressed with Molbot’s user-friendly and user-focused concept and saw the benefits it would provide to a number of applications such as DNA testing, genotyping, DNA purification and especially plasmid DNA cloning. The latter involves stitching two pieces of DNA strands together to make a new gene combination, which is an important, time- consuming and often failure-prone task. The automated nature of the Minilab minimizes the need for user interaction, which not only saves time but also reduces the risk of failure.
Working with Molbot, Dolomite’s engineering expertise and knowledge and understanding of microfluidic droplet technologies will take their winning concept into a productized commercial solution which will be available to buy from Dolomite’s microfluidic webshop.
Notable runner-ups were Amar Basu of Wayne State University, US, who came up with a software/hardware solution for measuring and controlling droplet size in real time and also Michele Zagnoni, of the University of Strathclyde, UK, who designed a reusable and semi- automated microfluidic architecture for ion channel drug screening. While the Productizing Science competition can only have one winner, both runner-ups had concepts worthy of future discussion with Dolomite.