Miniaturization and Microfluidics
Microfluidic lab-on-a-chip represents another area of fairly rapid expansion in technology. Raj Singh, Ph.D., director of biology R&D at Caliper Life Sciences, gave some examples of high-sensitivity LabChip® applications for quality control and characterization of monoclonal antibodies and other proteins in his talk in Beijing.
“Miniaturization using the microfluidics platform has many advantages, including speed and robustness,” said Dr. Singh. “However, it is possible to go too small; if you go too small, you cannot scale up. We are finding that microfluidics, as opposed to nanofluidics, gives the robustness, repeatability, and speed, as well as scalability that scientists require.”
Microfluidic chips form the key components of Caliper’s LabChip systems, which also include a LabChip instrument and experiment-specific reagents and software. Dr. Singh said that the chips contain a network of miniaturized, microfabricated channels through which fluids and chemicals are moved to perform experiments.
The instrument and software control the movement of fluids via pressure or voltage, and an integrated optical system detects the results of the particular experiment. “Because we have great flexibility in channel design and can exert split-second computer control over fluid flow, we have the ability to create chips for a multitude of applications,” said Dr. Singh.
Selling a platform is not enough, he noted. “Generic small molecules are easy to make and characterize; biosimilars, which is where protein characterization lives, are much harder to make, and biosimilar has evolved to biobetter. What we have done is take all the components of the assay—for example, glycan profiling—and put it on a plate and integrate it with our LabChip GXII reader. Just add compounds, follow the protocol, and you have your results. It comes out the same every time. Repeatable and robust—we think this is important in cell culture.”