Miniature droplet technology receives Royal Society funding


The Royal Society Enterprise Fund has led an investment syndicate backing Cambridge based company, Sphere Fluidics. The University of Cambridge spin-out is working on miniature droplet technology which will allow for the rapid identification, analysis and separation of single cells and molecules.

Sphere Fluidics picodroplet technology enables researchers to carry out large numbers of simultaneous reactions contained within small aqueous droplets a fraction of a millimetre in size. When the droplets are merged with others containing, for example, a specific chemical reagent, they effectively act as miniature reaction chambers that can be exposed to a unique
set of experimental conditions.

The picodroplet platform was developed by Professors Chris Abell and Wilhelm Huck of the Department of Chemistry. The technology has potential uses across a wide variety of fields, including analysis and isolation of unique cell types, biomarker discovery in small volumes, and molecular labelling and separation using proprietary catalysts and conditions. The platform is an alternative to existing techniques, offering greater control and automation, and improved efficiency.

The company was spun-out from the University of Cambridge in March 2010, with initial funding from the University’s Discovery Fund.

Dr Frank F. Craig, CEO of Sphere Fluidics, said: “This investment, along with the recent signing of research collaboration with a major pharmaceutical firm, is an excellent validation of the potential of Sphere and its unique discovery technology platform. We are excited at working with a prestigious body such as the Royal Society and its new investment arm.”

Professor Sir Peter Williams, Treasurer and Vice-President of The Royal Society, said: “The Royal Society Enterprise Fund is delighted to have had the opportunity to make this investment in Sphere Fluidics and add it to our growing investment portfolio. Businesses such as Sphere Fluidics, with advanced technology and great commercial potential, often find it difficult to raise funds at the start of their lives. The Enterprise Fund has been set up
to support businesses based on outstanding science through this phase. Sphere Fluidics has enormous commercial potential across a range of markets and we look forward to supporting the company in its development.”

Dr Maher Khaled of Cambridge Enterprise, the University of Cambridge’s commercialisation group, said: “We are pleased to see the continued growth of Sphere Fluidics, and that other funding bodies have similar belief in the potential of their technology.”

The Royal Society Enterprise Fund is a groundbreaking initiative which links philanthropy, business and science. The fund supports early stage new technology enterprises and enhances a culture of scientific innovation in the UK. Since launching the fund-raising activity in February 2008, the Royal Society has raised over £6.5m in gifts and pledges towards the Enterprise Fund.

The Enterprise Fund has previously invested in companies including Base4Innovation, which is working on ultra-fast gene sequencing technology; ‘green’ air filtration company, Nano- Porous Solutions Ltd. (n-psl) and Novacem, developing carbon negative cement.

Cambridge Enterprise Seed Funds is part of Cambridge Enterprise Limited and provides funding for early stage businesses that have been founded by members of the University of Cambridge. A new fund, The University of Cambridge Discovery Fund, was launched in September 2008. This fund, together with the original University Challenge Fund and the University Venture Fund, are evergreen and equity realisations will continue to fund new businesses which will have economic and societal impact.

The Royal Society Enterprise Fund ("the Enterprise Fund") is a ground breaking initiative which links philanthropy, business and science. The fund supports early stage new technology enterprises and a culture of scientific innovation in the UK. The Enterprise Fund
was established in 2008 by the Royal Society, the independent academy of science for the UK, in a national effort to invest in early-stage technology business opportunities founded on outstanding science.

Sphere Fluidics is a new company targeting a combined market of £23 billion in the Healthcare, Chemical Sciences and Biofuels industries. Sphere is commercialising picolitre droplet technology from the University of Cambridge that can perform thousands of
simultaneous reactions contained within aqueous droplets, fractions of a millimetre in size. This platform enables diverse applications including: miniaturised profiling of drug candidates, the generation of new biocatalysts and the identification of novel algal strains. Sphere has already won a commercial partnership, received two waves of investment and believes its technology has the potential to revolutionise consumer health, the environment
and our future energy sources.



For further information please contact:
Sarah Collins
Marketing Manager
Cambridge Enterprise Limited
Tel: +44 (0)1223 760339
Mob : +44 (0)7500 883612

Nicola Kane
Press and Public Relations
The Royal Society, London
Tel: +44 (0)20 7451 2508


Cambridge Enterprise exists to help University of Cambridge inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs make their ideas and concepts more commercially successful for the benefit of society, the UK economy, the inventors and the University.

Cambridge Enterprise, University of Cambridge