I spent 4 years working in instrumentation and automation at Biotrove (acquisitioned by Applied Biosystems), an MIT startup. Biotrove specialized in extremely high throughput, low volume microfluidics solutions for genomics applications.
I served as lead engineer on the NT Cycler, a QPCR (quantitative polymerase chain reaction) machine; it consists of a fluorescence detector coupled to a DNA amplification system, customized for the Biotrove Open Array (an assay platform featuring tightly packed nanoliter capacity wells). As the DNA is amplified, the resulting fluorescence of the reaction (by way of fluorescent reporter molecules) is monitored in real-time by the fluorescence detector. The resulting data is then analyzed to give precise quantifications of the original DNA in each well. This information can be used to determine how much or little a gene is being expressed in a given sample, and has a wide variety of applications in drug discovery and diagnostics.
Why are high throughput and low volume important? The higher the throughput, the faster it is to screen for cures. The lower the volume, the lesser quantity of DNA and high cost solutions you need to use to run an experiment. The ground breaking aspect of the Open Array platform is the ability to run QPCR on 10,000 samples at once (instead of the standard 96). Experiments that would normally take over a month can be completed in a single day.
I also worked on the robotics and delivery mechanism for filling the nanoliter wells (resulting patent).
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