20 May 2016

High-tech measuring company to come out of University of Copenhagen

Chemistry business

A new spin-out company from the University of Copenhagen, FRS-systems, is to provide pharmaceutical, foodstuff and biotechnology researchers with a new and unique technology to carry out sterile, fast and reliable measurements in liquids.

Two patents behind novel measurement technology

The new company is based on two patents taken out by the Department of Copenhagen, University of Copenhagen. One is for fluorescent dyes which can relate observations about their chemical surroundings by changes in the emitted light. The other covers the invention of a porous material which can lock the dyes in place, preventing them from dispersing in the liquid they are meant to measure.

Stop wasting time

Bo Wegge Laursen is a professor and Thomas Just Sørensen an associate professor at the Department of Chemistry, University of Copenhagen. They are the two inventors behind the company, and they are proud to be able to present a technology that will do away with the hours of time wasted by researchers measuring oxygen levels and pH in fluids.

“Today, when you want to measure the pH of a solution, you will need to calibrate your probe in three different buffers first. This takes an accumulated three minutes. For each and every measurement. Our method does away with calibration, so a measurement takes less than five seconds”, assures Thomas Just Sørensen.

Works somewhat like "glow in the dark" hands of clock

The dyes, called triangulenium, work somewhat like the “glow in the dark” hands of a wristwatch. You shine a light on them, and they shine right back. The clever bit is, that the light emitted by the dyes is affected by the chemical environment surrounding them.

Getting from fundamental science to functional business

Bo Wegge Laursen invented the clever dyes as part of a fundamental research project. Nursing the dyes from fundamental over applied science into what is now a fully functional product has not only cost time and money. In order to get there, the team needed professional help with the development of the business case.

Ample funding for business development

The money needed to make the fundamental results applicable came from, among others, the Novo Nordisk Foundation, the Lundbeck Foundation and a number of special allocations from the University itself. The University of Copenhagen technology transfer office, Trans-Tech, provided consultancy on the commercial aspects.

“The first time we consulted Trans-Tech we had our own idea about the kind of business you could spin out with our invention. Trans-Tech surveyed the market for us, and helped us develop an alternative business plan. That was very helpful. As an entrepreneur it may be important to have the right patents, but that is no use if there are no customers for your product. The input from Trans-Tech was extremely useful here”, says Thomas Just Sørensen.

First customers in research departments of industry and academia

Initially FRS-Systems plan to provide fully fitted measuring systems for research and development sections at universities and in industries. The system consists of single-use flasks with built in sensors, a proprietary light source and data acquisition and treatment software. Just fill the flask with your liquid, shut it, and start measuring. One sensor should be good for at least 800.000 individual measurements and there is no need to ever open the flask again.

Further development expected

As a starting point the two inventors have developed sensors to measure how sour or oxygen poor the fluid is. In time they expect to also develop sensors capable of determining the concentration of sugars, CO2, lactic acid and ammonia.

The story is written by Jes Andersen, journalist.