European Reseach Council awards grant for development of cell imaging device

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Prof. Dr. Liesbet Lagae, R&D manager of life science technologies at Imec and professor in Nanobio Physics at KU Leuven, has been awarded a Consolidator Grant for her research project SCALPEL (Single Cell Analysis and Sorting Platform) by the European Research Council (ERC).

The ERC grant is one of the most prestigious grants for researchers in the European Union. Dr Lagae will use the grant funding, with a budget of €2 million over five years, to develop a high-content, high-throughput cell imaging and sorting device, which is more compact and easier to use than any existing single cell analyser. The new device should support the work of pathologists, surgeons, and nurses and aims to improve the follow-up and survival rate of cancer patients.

Currently, single cell analysis remains tedious with many different instruments and protocols, typically taking a few days of intense, hands-on work. The process not only slows down research, but also hinders the translation to application in clinical practice.

Dr Lagae’s proposed single cell analyser is based on lens-free digital imaging to analyse the physical morphology of single cells flowing at high speeds through a microfluidic network with gentle cell sorting switches to route the cells towards different outlets.

It will combine microscopic high content imaging with the automated high throughput single cell analysis and sorting at a fraction of the cost. Because all optomechanical components, such as lenses, detectors and nozzles, are replaced by nanoelectronics and advanced signal processing technology, the devices will be cheap and compact.

ERC is a flagship component of the ‘Ideas Programme’ of the European Union’s Seventh Research Framework Program (FP7). Through open competition it awards grants to projects led by top researchers in Europe. With scientific excellence being the sole criterion for selection, the ERC’s aim is to recognise the best ideas, and retain and confer status and visibility to the best brains in Europe, while also attracting talent from abroad.

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