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Optofluidics' technology combines fluids, light to develop better diagnostic tools

It's one minuscule step for molecules, one giant leap for mankind. Nanotechnology startup Optofluidics, Inc. has established offices at the University City Science Center's Port Business Incubator. The company aims to develop optical devices that keep biomolecules in place in their physiological state, says Optofluidic's Chief Technology Officer and co-founder, Bernardo Cordovez. "The product will be an instrument that houses and reads the chips that we make."

As the company name implies, Optofluidics uses the combination of fluids and light to detect, identify and manipulate biomolecules and nanomaterials. The idea of adding fluids to scientific optical devices is not a new one. Back in the 18th century, rotating pools of mercury were used to create smooth mirrors in reflecting telescopes. According to Cornell University's Erikson Lab, where Optofluidics co-founder David Erikson initiated research concepts for Optofluidics, new biosensing technologies follow advances in the identification of biomarkers associated with specific diseases and injuries. Two examples are the neurodegenerative diseases Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, which have eluded early detection. The kind of non-invasive nanotechnology that Optofluidics is developing, which will diagnose and detect biomarkers at very low levels, could enable diagnosis even before symptoms appear.

The National Science Foundation recently gave Optofluidics nearly $150,000 in aSmall Business Innovation Research award. "The market opportunity is tremendous because most single molecule instrumentation is made for DNA, while nano-instrumentation for handling and studying proteins is still a bit behind," says Cordovez, who adds that Optofluidics' family of technologies has very strong commercial appeal.
Making the move to the Science Center was the easy part. Cordovez cites the University of Pennsylvania's strong biosciences department which will provide "a terrific future employee candidate pool." Philadelphia is slated to become a world leader in nanotechnology research, says Cordovez, with a planned world class nanofabrication center at Penn, scheduled for completion in the next few years. Read More

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Kristen Fitch

Kristen Fitch

Director, Marketing