Small is the new big in the world of research

A tiny UV imaging detector developed and manufactured here in Yorkshire is set to make big changes in the laboratory for research staff and scientists worldwide.

The ActiPix D100 is the world’s first miniature capillary-based UV imaging detector that uses technology similar to that used in mobile phones and digital cameras and applies it to the field of scientific research.

Invented and developed by Paraytec Ltd, a University of York spin-off company, the ActiPix enables high resolution, high sensitivity imaging. Capillaries the width of a human hair are used to carry samples through a UV light beam, and the detector then captures and processes the images using an active pixel sensor.

The new technology pioneered by Professor David Goodall and colleagues is having immediate benefits in monitoring enzyme reactions vital for human health, where the ActiPix is used to rapidly screen potential antibiotics for their reactivity with an enzyme target. The system is able to detect and identify multiple compounds in samples so small that they would be impossible to screen using the conventional methods of UV detection.

The company is now working with UK Trade & Investment to capture the international market that is already showing a keen interest in the possibilities of the new laboratory tool, which despite its small size takes only a fraction of the time used by standard UV detection techniques.

Says Carolyn Parkinson, CEO for Paraytec: “We always knew that the ActiPix was going to have a global appeal and we wanted to be prepared from day one to start trading overseas. That’s why we signed up to the Passport to Export programme run by UK Trade & Investment. This gave us all the basics in exporting we needed to hit the ground running.”

Working with UK Trade & Investment’s chemical sector specialist, Alastair Gardner, the company also tapped into Yorkshire Forward’s Targeted Export Support Scheme (TESS) funding. This enabled Paraytec to attend the HPLC 2006 Scientific Symposium in San Francisco earlier this year where it launched the ActiPix. The event gave the company an opportunity to network with potential distribution and business contacts and the first orders soon followed.

Alastair Gardner says: “There are so many potential applications for this technology besides pharmaceuticals that interest in it is bound to grow. That’s why we are trying to give the company as much support as we can in getting the product out to the international markets. I’m delighted that Paraytec have just been approved for more TESS funding to attend another exhibition in Chicago where I know they plan to have a high profile among over 30,000 delegates.” 

Yorkshire Forward’s TESS funding is delivered by UK Trade & Investment and it aims to help companies enter new overseas markets or develop new products for export.

Adds Parkinson: “While UV absorbance is a widely used technique in many fields of research, the ActiPix takes the technology one step further allowing for samples to be tested in parallel in much less time and using much less material. We are now preparing for Chicago and will continue to work with UK Trade & Investment as we develop and expand our products over the next few years.”