SmartBead and Abcam announce strategic partnership


Today, researchers and doctors spend days and weeks using slow single tests to diagnose human diseases. Imagine a world where you would visit the Doctor and give a small drop of blood at the door. By the time it was your turn to see the Doctor he or she would have a complete analysis of your state of health, know exactly what was wrong and precisely how to treat it.

A collaboration between two Cambridge high-tech companies could be about to turn that vision into reality, by developing a system that could perform hundreds of tests for different conditions such as breast cancer and heart disease all at the same time and in a matter of minutes.

Cambridge-based companies SmartBead Technologies Ltd (SBT) and Abcam Ltd today announced a strategic partnership to develop a unique system to offer these rapid, simultaneous research and diagnostic tests ('assays' as they are known).

Abcam initially aims to offer researchers click 'n' buildTM immuno-research assays, which are customisable to the researcher's application . Alongside this, the partnership will develop diagnostic immunoassays which can be used by doctors to detect many different disorders simultaneously.

SmartBead Technologies' patented system offers customised massively parallel (simultaneous) assays for protein and DNA-based fields, including genomics and proteomics, drug discovery/development and diagnostics.

Unlike chip-based assay systems, custom test panels combining both DNA molecules and protein probes can be created quickly and easily by assembling sets of uniquely encoded beads, providing a high throughput 3-D test.

Abcam is the world's number 1 website for researchers to find antibodies and reagents. The company has enjoyed rapid growth by using its knowledge of customer needs to add value to the sales of these products.

Together, the two companies see a significant market for new systems that deliver faster, more flexible and customized tests to researchers and doctors.

Jonathan Milner, Abcam's CEO said 'We are very excited to be working with SmartBead and believe their technology is the appropriate platform for offering researchers the unique capability to perform tens to thousands of multi-analyte immunoassays in parallel, without requiring them to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on rapidly depreciating detection equipment.'

He commented 'Although when I suggested the vision of rapid diagnosis at the Doctor's surgery, we were having some fun and predicting long term, the type of technologies offered by SmartBead and Abcam may well contribute to realising this vision and point of care, rapid, parallel, immunodiagnostics could be with us sooner than we imagined.'

Caroline Garey, SmartBead Technologies' CEO said, 'We are delighted to be working with Abcam to develop such an exciting new system.

'By harnessing Abcam's antibodies and knowledge to the SmartBead encoded bead system, we believe we can offer something entirely new and valuable to researchers and medics, and ultimately to the public as well'

About Abcam

Abcam uses internet database and bio-technologies to accelerate the pace of discovery in fields such as cancer research.

The fusion of Abcam's popular gateway web site with the sale of high knowledge based research reagent products means that Abcam is not just a .com but has real sales and healthy margins.

Our mission is to accelerate the pace of bio-research by empowering the researchers to quickly choose and order the exact products for their research needs.

Abcam was founded in 1998 by Dr. Jonathan Milner, formerly a research fellow at the University of Cambridge. After many wasted hours and tortuous attempts trying to find the reliable antibody research reagents that he needed, Jonathan decided that researchers needed a service that would enable them to quickly find the right antibody for their research.

Therefore, the Abcam website is designed to provide each researcher with all available information concerning antibodies to their target(s).

Within 18 months the Abcam website was so successful that it became the researcher's first choice for finding the best antibodies. The success of Abcam lies in being able to meet the needs of the researcher.

About SmartBead Technologies

SBT has designed a new system for carrying out massively parallel bioassay tests in a low-cost, fast and convenient manner.

At the core of the technology are unique microfabricated beads containing miniature optical bar codes. The ease and rapidity by which the barcodes can be changed allows tests to be prepared, either by the customer or manufactured by SBT, in a short turnaround time.

The beads can be marked with a wide range (currently >100,000) of different codes, offering sample throughput flexibility.

Unlike other companies that are constrained by their high costs, the relatively simple nature of the code readout system and low manufacturing costs permit the rapid development of a wide range of product applications including antibody, DNA, RNA, and protein-based tests.

The system will permit multiplexing to simultaneously search for multiple targets in a single sample bringing economy of scale for screening, diagnostics, gene expression and many other applications.

SBT was set up in 2000 and is a spin-out from Sentec Ltd, a Cambridge-based company that specialises in the development and exploitation of technologies, primarily through the foundation of new companies.


As an innovator in reagents and tools, Abcam’s purpose is to serve life science researchers globally to achieve their mission, faster.

Abcam plc