Microsystems (Microfluidic) Technology
Reduces sample and Reagent Size Requirements Dramatically
Technologies used


Industrial sector (PRODCOM code)
    331 Medical and surgical equipment and orthopaedic appliances
Cambridge Molecular Technologies Limited, UK, a company of 16 employees, develops, manufactures and markets novel enabling processes for the extraction and purification of nucleic acids (DNA and RNA). These enabling processes include unique patented chemistries, devices and instrument systems, proprietary contract-service purification and analysis capabilities. The company is now a member of the Whatman Group which has annual sales in 1999 of 500 MEuro.

The world wide market for DNA purification currently stands at 477 MEuro. In order to exploit the emerging 'on-chip' DNA purification market segment, the company undertook an 18 month FUSE application experiment (AE) with the goal of developing a microfluidic DNA purification device using microsystems technology (MST). The microfluidic functionality of the emerging new purification process will complement the company's existing range of manual and automated purification technologies. In particular the improvement of the existing methods and processes of DNA extraction were the object of the experiment. The aim was to produce a cheap disposable device, with significantly reduced sample volume requirement which would increase throughput and reduce analysis cycle time.

The rationale for the company to pursue the innovation was to participate in the rapidly market for DNA analysis with highly innovative and competitive products and services.

Prior to the commencement of the AE the company had no experience in MST. Through the course of the work we acquired an increasing understanding of MST issues including specific knowledge of plastic microfabrication techniques highly appropriate to the disposable biochip market. Knowledge of the biochip MST market was acquired and awareness was gained in multidisciplinary project planning; a skill which will benefit all areas of the company.

At the completion of the AE a silicon/glass/plastic microfluid microsystem has been demonstrated on whole blood.

Spending during the AE was 145 kEuro. Additional Capital Expenditure of circa 1 MEuro is planned to develop a low cost, volume-manufacturable microsystem. It is projected that the return on investment calculated as an internal rate of return will be 50% after 5 years with a payback time of 44 months.

We suggest that this AE would serve as a useful case history for high-tech SMEs considering their first MST project in this relatively ill-defined technological area.
Cambridge Molecular Technologies Limited
Cambridge Tech Park
Newmarket Road
United Kingdom

Detailed information

You can also benefit from microelectronics

Microsystems technology provided Cambridge Molecular Technologies Limited with the means of improving its products and enhancing its market position. You can also achieve significant benefits by acquiring the right microelectronics technology and utilising it in your product or manufacturing process. You can get help from FUSE to realise this.

FUSE is a technology transfer programme, funded by the European Commission to stimulate the wider use of microelectronics technologies by European enterprises to increase their competitiveness and enhance their economic growth. The demonstrator described here is one of many examples in the public FUSE portfolio covering the whole spectrum of microelectronics technologies and spanning a wide range of applications and industry sectors.

FUSE provides you with:

  • Best practice in acquiring specific microelectronics technologies and conducting full development projects through the FUSE portfolio of real life demonstrator documents.
  • Local training and expert support to plan your innovation realistically and help you conduct your project successfully.

Further information and support relating to this and other demonstrators can be obtained from the addresses below.

Further information   Guiding Technology Transfer Node
For further information and support regarding this case study, please contact a Technology Transfer Node (TTN) in your region.
Homepage: http://www.fuse-network.com
University of Hertfordshire
Erdc, College Lane
AL10 9AB Hatfield
United Kingdom