MiniFAB Newsletter July 2012

Only 2 Days until AACC!

Visit MiniFAB at the American Association of Clinical Chemistry (AACC) Clinical Lab Expo from July 15 - 19 in Los Angeles, CA. MiniFAB's Andrew Campitelli, Laura Faulconer and Bob Mehalso will be at Booth #2363 where visitors will see demonstrations of our specialized suite of services that rapidly translate concepts into fully manufactured microfluidic solutions for diagnostics and medical devices.

"We are excited to be showcasing our microfluidics manufacturing expertise at AACC and we look forward to talking with visitors about our unique Design for Manufacture approach" says Erol Harvey, MiniFAB's CEO.

This is the 5th year that MiniFAB will be exhibiting at this event, the largest clinical lab exposition in the world.

To meet with MiniFAB at AACC or to arrange a meeting outside of the show, please contact Andrew Campitelli at

CEO Report

As MiniFAB heads towards our 10th Anniversary celebration in October, it is a chance to look back at how we have grown and how the world has changed since we first switched on our cleanrooms in Melbourne back in 2002. To add to this reflection, I have just returned from a highly successful trade mission to southern Germany and The Netherlands as part of a Victorian Business delegation, ending with the COMS 2012 conference in Norway.

Some of the issues we looked at during this visit were old ones; how to transfer technology from research labs to commercial products, how to connect businesses to innovation, how to manage product development, how to design polymer microengineered medical devices (lab-on-a-chip) so that they can be commercially successful. These are precisely the challenges MiniFAB's business model was created to address, and I believe we are providing a valuable offering to the market. Certainly our international client base confirms this.

Some of the issues we looked at are newer, or at least their importance seems to have increased. As a result of the GFC, the over-hyped venture capital model for business investment has taken a big hit. There is much more discussion about "smart money", which by implication means there must have been quite a bit of "dumb money" in the system before. Angel Investors are much more influential players in today's market. With their money they bring experience, hands-on expertise and connections that are valuable to new ventures, i.e. our clients.

The quality of the leadership team always was important – it is more important now. Regional governments and universities are also looking at adjusting their engagement models with business. We heard great advice from Prof. Anne Fliermann, Chairman of the Board of University Twente in The Netherlands: "Focus on the people, not on the governance. With good people, the right procedures will follow". That brought home to me what a great team we have at MiniFAB, where it is the people that matter, as well as the last 10 years that have been spent building great procedures for technology and product innovation.

Tackling on-cartridge storage challenges using blisters

Increasingly, MiniFAB uses blisters as a storage solution for reagents on cartridge. These micro-engineered mounds typically hold volumes of between 100 microliters and 1 milliliter and offer a number of advantages over traditional, off-cartridge methods of reagent storage.

A blister on a cartridge ensures that an operator doesn't need to load a reagent, making the use case simpler. They can minimize required reagent volumes by reducing dead and swept volumes. Cartridges designed with everything on-board streamline logistics; everything is one package and reagent loading can be handled offline. According to MiniFAB's Manager, Product Development, Jason Hayes: "using blisters, integration and interfacing challenges are confined to the point of manufacture".

Blisters give our clients possibilities. Rather than relying solely on external instrument-based pneumatics or fluidics, a blister with a mechanical interface can act as a pump on a cartridge. Another option is to use blisters to store multiple reagents independently on a single cartridge, delaying their mixing to the point of application. MiniFAB can even fill a blister's air volumes with an inert gas.

Where we want to maintain the integrity of a cartridge, blisters eliminate the risk of contamination at point of use. For diagnostics, particularly when dealing with infectious diseases, maintaining a cartridge's seal to contain the biohazard is vital for safety reasons. When used in forensic applications, this feature decreases the risk of contaminating specimens.

MiniFAB's experience and knowledge is vital when integrating blisters to cartridges. Our know-how allows us to address challenges such as lowering the blister's rupture force to give a controlled dispense of reagent, while balancing that with the robustness needed to survive shipment and storage.

MiniFAB produces blisters in-house using cold or thermo forming to create the well, sealing the structure post filling using heat or ultrasound. Here, the possibilities of material choices allow for increased customization to address clients' specific requirements. Decisions are made based on a number of factors such as what reagent will be stored, for how long and the cartridge substrate material the blister will be integrated to. MiniFAB can select materials to give confidence in long-term storage solutions, giving good barrier properties and chemical resistance, preventing fluid loss, even addressing possible light sensitivities, etc.

MiniFAB's expertise in reagents on cartridge, particularly at integrating blisters on cartridge, helps us to deliver reliable and manufacturable products to our clients.

Entrepreneur of the Year

MiniFAB's Founder and CEO, Erol Harvey, was named the 2012 Victorian Manufacturing Hall of Fame, Enabling Technology Entrepreneur of the Year award. This award recognizes Erol's contribution, leadership and achievements in embracing enabling technologies in manufacturing.

The Hon. Richard Dalla-Riva MLC, Minister for Manufacturing, Exports and Trade announced the 2012 Victorian Manufacturing Hall of Fame winners at an awards ceremony on May 3, 2012.

"We are assisting manufacturers to invest in technology to progress from medium enterprises to high-performance companies, working alongside our world-leading research institutions and also by offering support and assistance to enter new growth markets overseas," Mr Dalla-Riva said.

Erol has been involved in the commercial and scientific development of micro and nano technology for over 20 years. In addition to founding MiniFAB in 2002 with Michael Wilkinson, Erol is a Fellow of the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering. He has held a variety of roles in industry and academia, and founded the Australian CRC for microtechnology. He serves on a number of professional committees, including the Australian Federal Government's Future Manufacturing Industry Innovation Council (FMIIC). Erol's award comes one year after MiniFAB received the Victorian Manufacturing Hall of Fame's 2011 Enabling Technology Company of the Year for successfully building an international track record as a specialist in the design, integration and manufacture of polymer micro engineered systems.

Partner news

Read the latest news from MiniFAB's partners.

  • Watch a video explaining the science behind and potential impact of the Monash Vision Group bionic eye
  • See the TearLab System in action in this ABC interview with Dr Panzer of the Houston Dry Eye Clinic discussing the system's effects on improving health
  • Read more about the recent Victorian Government-sponsored small technologies trade delegation to Europe, led by STC.

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