Big deal for tiny chips – Micralyne gives researchers a bargain

May 23, 2003

Friday, May 23, 2003

Edmonton-based Micralyne Inc. – claiming to be the only profitable miniature systems manufacturer anywhere – unveiled a program yesterday that makes tiny electronics available to Canadian medical researchers.

“We have the ability to sell technology like this to individuals and companies, but it’s very, very expensive,” said Chris Lumb, president and CEO of Micralyne.

“For university researchers who don’t have access to that kind of funding, we’ve enabled them to access this technology for about a tenth of the cost.”

The 95-staff Micralyne, a University of Alberta spinoff, has teamed with the not-for-profit Canadian Microelectronics Centre (CMC) of Kingston, Ont., which will act as a broker.

In addition to benefiting research, Micralyne expects to generate interest in its products and hopefully develop new markets.

“It means we’re able to promote more rapid dissemination of technologies like microfluidics,” said Lumb.

Microfluidics are customized chips, usually glass or plastic, with tiny etched channels that allow flow control of fluids or gases. They can be useful in process like sequencing DNA. The Micralyne chips will used in research for disease diagnosis and drug discovery.

Brian Barge, president and CEO of CMC, said the deal will strengthen Canada’s research community.

“We see microfluidic chips being in demand in the research environment in Canadian universities well into the future – decades,” said Barge. “We are on the leading edge.”

Micralyne is owned by employees and a few corporations.

It specializes in MEMS, micro-electro-mechanical systems, which operate at the level of microns. There are 1,000 microns in one millimetre.

Micralyne is an example of Alberta’s economic advantage, said Alberta Economic Development Minister Mark Norris: “It’s everything that’s right about what we’re trying to do in Alberta.”

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