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Epigem’s January 2017 Newsletter

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Welcome to our first newsletter of 2017

Last year was a busy time for us, both in manufacture and in research. In manufacturing, we have continued to progress the production of microfluidic components, for example with a contract for a US cancer diagnostics company which has pushed our precision fabrication capabilities to a higher level.

We have also been doing lots of work using our proprietary microelectrode technology in a product for diagnosing brain and heart disorders. This was developed in partnership with our client, which is an approach we often adopt.

We continue to underpin our research capabilities, for example from our work with Durham University students from SOFI CDT (Centre for Doctoral Training in Soft Matter and Functional Interfaces) to the appointment of Niamh Kilcawley, Epigem’s Marie Słodowska-Curie Fellow, which has led to an increase in our blood research activity.

All this as well as: being granted a European and UK patent for our method of providing an embedded fine line seal for the manufacture of highly complex microfluidic devices, which takes effect February 2017: granted a US patent for a composite electrode; and a recent further filing. Watch this space!

Additionally, Epigem continues partnering in EU and Innovate UK funded projects: Commitment, Milked, Mimic, Symphony, Aquavalens and Relevance. You can find out more about these on our website.

2016 was a year of the unexpected with Brexit and the US presidential election. However, Epigem’s increasing capabilities, stimulating research projects and promising manufacturing innovations in microfluidics and nanotechnology mean we stay ahead in this continuously developing industry. Epigem is now looking ahead to what 2017 will bring and we are excited to continue to support several long-standing customers with high tech manufacture.

If you have anything to say about our products or services, or about the stories in this newsletter, we’d like to hear from you.

Kind regards

Tim Ryan

Managing Director



Epigem issues blood challenge to Durham University Students

Epigem has issued a blood challenge to students from the Durham University-led SOFI CDT (Centre for Doctoral Training in Soft Matter and Functional Interfaces).

Dr Tim Ryan, Epigem’s Managing Director, and Niamh Kilcawley, Epigem’s Marie Słodowska-Curie Fellow and Early Stage Researcher, presented the problems to the students on the 7th of November 2016. This is part of Niamh’s work into developing microfluidic devices for the diagnoses of rare anaemic conditions, such as sickle cell anaemia and thalassemia.

Epigem and Durham University have a long-standing relationship and this latest stage will contribute to Epigem’s work in RELEVANCE, an EU-backed project which will improve prognostic, diagnostic and therapeutic approaches on red blood cells production, function, and clearance.

Epigem is a polymer micro engineering company specialising in the life sciences, development and manufacture of microfluidic devices, micro optical components and film processed printed electronics. It has strong contacts with universities across the north east of England, such as Northumbria and Durham.

Epigem’s work on EU programmes RELEVANCE and COMMITMENT, and collaboration with the SOFI CDT is providing the CDT students (comprising physicists, chemists and mathematicians) with an early opportunity to learn how to undertake research in multi-disciplinary, complex problem-solving teams. The students are gaining an appreciation of how industry operates, from the perspective of both small companies such as Epigem, and larger companies which are sponsoring SOFI.

Dr Ryan said: “Few students have an opportunity to make a difference to the lives of millions of people. However, this project will contribute to helping patients with, for example, rare anaemias, and I’m sure the students will make a real difference.”

Professor Lian Hutchings “This is a fantastic opportunity to collaborate with a local company, provide the CDT students with first-class training and at the same time gain a better understanding of the needs of industry. Epigem is a truly innovative company and our links with it are generating powerful outcomes.”

SOFI CDT is a £10 million collaboration between Durham University and the Universities of Leeds and Edinburgh, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), each of the Universities and a consortium of industrial partners, with the aim of training the next generation of scientific leaders for high impact industrial careers.

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Increasing blood research activity with the appointment of our new staff member Niamh Kilcawley

Miss Kilcawley, from Dublin, has been appointed as a Marie Słodowska-Curie fellow in Epigem as part of the RELEVANCE project.

The 25-year-old will be developing microfluidic devices for the diagnoses of rare anaemic conditions, such as Sickle Cell Anaemia and Thalassemia.

She will be collaborating with a team of 15 fellows across Europe at leading blood research centres, including clinicians and blood transfusion experts.

Miss Kilcawley said: “Using microfluidic devices will allow us to use infinitesimal volumes of blood and screen them in order to diagnose rare conditions.

“I will be specifically researching the separation of key blood components using microfluidic technology for diagnostic, therapeutic and surgical purposes.

“This is such a great opportunity for me. Working with Epigem will give me access to an abundance of high tech equipment that will be imperative to the successful completion of this project.”

“In addition, this fellowship allows me to utilise facilities across all the various European partners of the project. There are so many possibilities available to me.”

“Using the resources of a company like Epigem will make a huge difference to the research. I’m currently learning new techniques and methods within a broad spectrum of different fields.”

Miss Kilcawley’s interest in microfluidics began at Dublin City University, Ireland, where she said she found her feet as a researcher while studying to complete her undergraduate degree in Physics with Biomedical Sciences.

She added: “It really opened my mind up to see what can be done with tiny amounts of fluid, particularly when it comes to medical diagnoses.

“My main drive is to help people by developing new diagnostic tools. As part of my career development plan, I would like to contribute to the science of haematology and improvement of the health and wellbeing of society.”

Epigem is a polymer micro engineering company specialising in the life sciences, development and manufacture of microfluidic devices, micro optical components and film processed printed electronics.

While she was still an undergraduate Miss Kilcawley spent time working in the area of microfluidics for BluSense Diagnostics, Copenhagen, as well as securing a placement in the Microfluidics Platforms Group in Dublin City University during the 3rd year of her studies.

Her work comprised of the fabrication and assembly of microfluidic platforms using a range of micro-fabrication technology.

Epigem Managing Director Dr Tim Ryan said: “We are really excited that Niamh is joining the company.

“She has studied microfluidics and is working hard. It’s great employing someone who loves to learn. I know she’ll be a valuable member of the team.”

There are currently 15 Marie Curie fellows working on the RELEVANCE project over the next 36 months and Miss Kilcawley believes their research will deliver new and more efficient diagnostic devices.



UK and European patent for revolutionary new micro seal technology secured for 2017

Epigem has been granted a European and UK patent for their method of providing an embedded fine line seal for the manufacture of highly complex microfluidic devices, which takes effect February 2017.

The fine line seal serves to define and enclose lined microfluidic channels and chambers, formed by securing two plies together, allowing fluids to flow through on a minute scale – with the height of the channels typically 100 microns.

From its facilities in Redcar in the Tees Valley, North Yorkshire the firm developed the new micro seal to allow reversible interconnection with, for example, precision optics, micro circuitry or highly sensitive sensors.

In fact, the applications for the embedded micro seal are only limited by the human imagination.

The technology is already being used world-wide in applications from human cell biology to blood work, toxicity testing to cancer screening – allowing scientists to work with highly complex and precise equipment.

They allow the screening of multiple cell samples in very small areas, which means dramatically improving precision and minimising sample and reagent volumes, with significantly less time spent on data collection.

Because of its minute size – actually mimicking blood vessels in the human body – it is ideal for medical research on, for example, stem cells, where only tiny amounts are available.

The versatile micro seals can be used to make different micro environments which can form channels and well arrays of different sizes and shapes and carry out multiple simultaneous tests.

Epigem Managing Director Tim Ryan said: “Things behave differently at such a small scale and our micro seal technology is ideal for creating sealed microenvironments – invaluable for medical research and development.”

The micro seals are particularly useful for integrating multiple materials in a hybrid manner, with each material or device selected to best suit the multiple functions needed to be combined in a single device.

The seals are moulded at the same time as the chip is manufactured and can be designed for a range of operating pressures.

The micro seals can also be used repeatedly, taken apart and re-bonded multiple times – ideal for high throughput assays with multiple automated process steps.

Dr Ryan added: “Although this technology is commercially available and being used worldwide, the Epigem team are still discovering its versatility.

“It’s basically making fluid processing in very small structures a lot more accurate and accessible – meaning easier, faster and more flexible micro engineering.”

Epigem is celebrating more than 22 years of innovation in polymer, micro and nanotechnology (MNT) and was the first UK company offering polymer microfabrication services.

The newly patented micro seal technology not only allows highly precise measurement and cost effective high throughput diagnostic screening, relevant to a wide range of life science applications, but also enables fabrication engineers to very precisely position adhesives when joining or assembling intricate components.

Designing and manufacturing products that deal with sealing and connectivity in the molecular, nano and microscopic realms isn’t easy but Epigem continues to find innovative solutions.



Thank you for reading our newsletter. Stay up to date with all the latest news on our website and watch out for more Epigem innovations in 2017.

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