Micralyne deal taps research field – Microfluidic chip cost expected to drop, president says.

May 08, 2003

Paul Marck
The Edmonton Journal

Friday, May 23, 2003

EDMONTON – Emerging technology company Micralyne Corp. has struck a deal that will give it exposure in new markets across Canada while helping university researchers with the latest in leading-edge micro tools.

Micralyne president Chris Lumb said the collaboration with CMC, formerly known as Canadian Microelectronics Corp., opens untapped research potential using microfluidic chips to create new business opportunities for both companies.

The agreement is also a good deal for universities, providing custom-made fluidic microchips at a fraction of the industry cost, Lumb said.

“CMC’s strong connections with the university community made it possible for us to combine manufacturing runs, and therefore reduce the price to users,” Lumb said.

“The result is that university researchers are able to have their own custom-made microfluidic chips manufactured for about one-tenth of what it would cost otherwise.”

A non-profit company, CMC is brokering the research agreements to use Micralyne technology in such areas as medical research, drug discovery, biomedical analysis and instrumentation.

The Cross Cancer Institute, University of Alberta and University of Calgary are among collaborators using Micralyne technology to develop devices for single-cell analysis and early disease detection.

The chips are central to development of nanotechnology, submicroscopic machinery at the forefront of the $120-million Nanotech Centre of Excellence at the University of Alberta.

Fluidic microchips are tiny laboratories on silicon wafers that use channels to measure fluids and gases, reporting analyzed results back to researchers. The chips are capable of performing such tasks as DNA analysis and separation of human blood cells, leading to quick and accurate diagnoses, improved treatments and faster development of drugs for a host of diseases, including cancer.

CMC, based in Kingston, Ont., has projects in place using Micralyne technology at the universities of Alberta, Calgary, Simon Fraser, Toronto and Queen’s.

CMC president Brian Barge, a former president of the Alberta Research Council, said it is expected that up to 20 university projects with Micralyne technology will be in place by year’s end.

Plans are to serve up to 1,600 researchers at 42 Canadian institutions, Barge said.

Micralyne is a flagship new-economy company in Edmonton, Economic Development Edmonton president Allan Scott said at a ceremony marking the collaboration.

“It’s the kind of innovation that I believe can drive the future prosperity of the region and create economic diversity.”

Privately owned Micralyne was spun off from the University of Alberta several years ago, has 90-plus employees and annual revenues in excess of $10 million. It calls itself the only profitable micro-electro-mechanical-machining foundry in North America.

It has contracts to supply emission sensors in Ford vehicles, components in military fighter jets, telecommunications optical switches and devices for commercial printers.

CMC is funded by the federal Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, matched by industrial grants, technologies and services.

pmarck@thejournal.canwest.com

© Copyright 2003 Edmonton Journal