Date: Jan 28, 2008 Source: (
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TUCSON, Ariz. - A small company based at a University of Arizona laboratory has licensed a device that can be used to clean equipment used in laboratory research.
The fully automated washer, known as "Squirt," is the third major project Nuvogen Research LLC has completed since being founded in 1997. It will be manufactured and sold by MatriCal Inc., a Washington-based lab-instrument supplier.
The Squirt is used to clean microplates, which are plastic plates with multiple "wells" that function as tiny test tubes.
There's a large market for an improved microplate washer, said MatriCal Chief Executive Dan Roark. Pharmaceutical companies, biotech companies, and academic institutions all need the product.
Scientists Stephen Felder and Richard Kris spent three years developing the product for their consulting company, which is focused on creating technology to aid in drug discovery research.
Felder and Kris are partners and the sole employees of Nuvogen.
The partners are "more interested in developing new technology" than in manufacturing or sales, said Kris.
Roark said well-designed products are created when scientists become entrepreneurs.
"They have a different perspective that allows them to think out of the box," he said.
Current microplate washers on the market are prone to clogging, Roark said.
Squirt is unique because it doesn't use needles to spray a solution and air into each well in the sample plate. Instead, the plate is turned over and a single nozzle is used to spray the plate "like a carwash," said Felder.
The washer can be run as a stand-alone instrument or with a robotic system that loads the microplates.
The market for laboratory equipment like Squirt is valued at around $40 million, said Glenn Cudiamat, vice president of research services for Strategic Direct International Inc.
The market's annual growth rate is 5 to 7 percent according to the company's latest figures, Cudiamat said.