Big deal for tiny tools

Scientists at the University of York, who have developed miniaturised tools for chemical and biological analysis, have won a major injection of growth capital to produce them commercially.

Paraytec, the University-backed spin-out company they established to develop and market the technology, has secured £170,000 from Viking Fund and private investors in the Viking Club.

The company will produce instruments that use miniaturised ultraviolet-visible (UV-vis) absorbance detectors providing significantly more sensitive and accurate analysis of chemical and biological samples than existing equipment.

Their enhanced sensitivity and a quicker analytical process enable pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies developing new drugs to screen samples more efficiently.

Thanks to the backing from Viking Fund and Viking Club, a range of instruments – a miniature capillary UV detector, a capillary spectrophotometer and a multiplexed capillary spectrophotometer with robot handling – should go into production next year helping the company to win a share of the $3 billion molecular spectroscopy market.

Prototype version of Paraytec’s Miniature capillary UV detector.

In the last two years, Paraytec has benefited from a range of funding support to help to bring the technology to this point. This includes £25,000 from the University of York for prototype development, £25,500 from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s (EPSRC) Follow-On Fund, and £10,000 from the York Innovation Fund, as well as specialist business support and advice from Science City York.

UV absorbance detection is a laboratory technique widely employed to characterise and determine the levels of substances which dissolve in water and other liquids, with light absorbed at different wavelengths in the ultra-violet region indicating different compounds.

The new instruments use a capillary the width of a human hair as a sample vessel, so they require sample volumes 1,000 times less than existing equipment.

The instruments were devised by analytical scientists Professor David Goodall and Dr. Ed Bergström, from the University of York‘s Department of Chemistry, together with Professor of Electronic Systems at the University of Sheffield Nigel Allinson, and independent designer Dr. Kevin Moon.