At Ben Franklin TechVentures in Bethlehem, PA, XiGo Nanotools took on a huge task: making magnetic-resonance technology easy to use. “The novel aspect of this technology is that we’re using magnetic resonance to analyze nanosized biomaterials,” says company president Sean Race.

In particular, this technology analyzes particles of biomaterials in concentrated formulations. Plus, it’s fast—providing a measurement in about a minute.

Light-scattering techniques can provide complementary information, but often require diluting the sample. XiGo’s approach to magnetic resonance works well in concentrated formulations where particle-particle interactions can make life complicated. “It really thrives in the concentrated arena,” Race says. “So, for systems where light scattering is not going to be a viable tool, because the formulation is too concentrated, that’s perfect for us.”

The traditional method of using magnetic resonance—dissolving a sample in a solvent placed in a tube that goes in a large, liquid nitrogen–cooled device in an analytical laboratory—works well enough in a research lab, but not in manufacturing. Instead, scientists at XiGo created a flow-through device for manufacturing. As a result, a bioprocessor is “able to bolt it into a manufacturing process,” Race says.

Overall, this technology started with a user in mind. With decades of experience as a chemical engineer working on analytical instruments, Race kept getting one message from customers: keep it simple. “We’ve done our best to put the complex analysis in the background and just allow people to focus in on a single number, where they can establish if the result is a pass or fail,” Race explains. “So, we repurposed software that’s traditionally used in magnetic resonance to make it easy for people who don’t have an advanced degree.”

In the move to Bioprocessing 4.0, manufacturers need analytical tools that fit into the process and do so as seamlessly as possible. Plus, the results should be as easy to interpret as they can be. That’s just what Race and his colleagues hope to provide.

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