Developing custom instruments to accelerate the pace of discovery.

The CZ Biohub Bioengineering team designs and builds unique custom instruments that enable novel projects and accelerate the pace of discovery – from rugged, battery-powered portable devices for diagnosing an infectious disease in remote areas, to an automated multichannel protein purification device.

Select Projects

FACS (fluorescence-activated single cell sorter) automation robot

An integrated system that manages and coordinates sample transfer, autonomously controls a Sony Cell Sorter, algorithmically generates sorting gates, and communicates with the user to provide walkaway cell sorting functionality on up to 18 samples at a time. The automation standardizes gating, eliminating user-to-user variation in the created gates, reduces hands-on sorting labor by approximately 90%, and has the added benefit of reducing operator sample handling errors.

Automated protein purifier

An automated, four-channel chromatography platform for parallelized protein purification at milligram scales. The device can purify up to four proteins (each with its own single column), has inputs for up to eight reagents, buffers, or solvents that can be directed to any of the four columns via a network of software-driven valves, and includes an automated fraction collector with 10 positions for 1.5mL or 5.0 mL collection tubes, and four positions for 30mL collection tubes, for each column output.

Ultrasensitive portable luminometer for serology studies in remote areas

A compact, rugged, portable (battery powered) two-channel luminometer with performance on par with high-end benchtop instruments. By pairing robust and inexpensive silicon photomultiplier (SiPM) sensors with a low-profile shutter system, our design compensates for sensor non-idealities and thermal drift, achieving a limit of detection of 3E-20 moles of nanoluciferase, or approximately 1fW of radiant optical power.

Automated label-free malaria detection instrument

An automated system for low-resource settings that uses machine learning to identify malaria-infected red blood cells without any need for fixation or staining/labeling, eliminating the need for expensive reagents and the labor and variability caused by manual fixation/staining and by manual parasite counting.

Automated cell culture passaging system

A system combining a commercial low-cost liquid handling robot, a custom-built microscopy-based cell counting device, and custom software, to automatically passage cells cultured in multi-well plates. The system dissociates cells in the source plate, measures the resulting concentration in each well’s cell suspension, and transfers a predefined number of cells from each well in the source plate to one or more receiving plates. This automation greatly reduces the labor needed to maintain large numbers of cell libraries growing in multi-well plates.

Automated liquid exchange system for multi-well plate microscopy

A robotic system integrated into a confocal microscope to automatically remove and add up to five reagents or media to multi-well plates being imaged. This automation allows hands-off execution of long imaging sessions of cells in multi-well plates that require media exchanges and/or stimulation with different reagents at different points in time.

Miscellaneous Hardware for CLIAHUB

During the height of the pandemic the team designed and built multiple instruments for CLIAHUB:

  • Well-Lit: A device that helps eliminate errors when pipetting samples from barcoded tubes into multi-well plates, and when transferring samples from one multi-well plate to another. It has since become very useful for a variety of groups inside and outside of the Biohub (especially for the Gates Grand Challenge groups that the Rapid Response Team works with).
  • Bartender: A system that automatically fills large numbers of COVID-19 sample collection tubes with a preset volume of virus-preserving fluid. Two copies of the device were built for CLIAHUB, and another two for the Stanford University COVID-19 testing lab.
  • Ventilator alarm: A small device that monitors the air pressure coming out of a hospital ventilator and generates audible alarms when it detects unsafe conditions for the patient, such as over-pressure, lack of breathing, etc. This device was designed to allow the use of cheap and easily available “transport ventilators” in the ICU, when there was an acute shortage of ICU-rated ventilators