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Chips That are Changing the Medical World

The glass chips produced by Micronit Microfluidics are finding their way into the medical world. Mini laboratories equipped with these lab-on-a-chip chips will soon make the life of many patients less unpleasant while also making the care aspect more affordable. “That’s why we’ll expand quite substantially over the next few years”, anticipates managing director Micha Mulder of Micronit Microfluidics.

This Enschede company was founded by two former students of the University of Twente: Micha Mulder and Ronny van ‘t Oever. After completing their Applied Physics training in 1999 they started up for themselves in a small office situated on the campus. Since then, Micronit Microfluidics has developed into a world player in the development and production of glass chips. Today the company has a team of almost 50 people.

This growth means that Micronit Microfluidics is constantly in need of the facilities available at High Tech Factory. Their own business premises, right next to the university campus, is very well equipped for the rough work, powder blasting glass, but the High Tech Factory’s cleanroom is essential for applying the fine infrastructure onto the chips. This is where the research is carried out and also the prototyping and production of the glass chips.

There are several hundreds of companies engaged in Microfluidics spread around the world. And yet finding a company that equals Micronit is very difficult. Why? “Because we are expert in processing glass, are familiar with DNA and know how liquids behave when transported in small amounts through minuscule channels”, says Micha Mulder.

DNA AND HOME TESTS

The chips developed by Micronit are used mainly in two areas: DNA sequencing and point-of-care (medical tests near the patient). For DNA sequencing these are chips that analyse a DNA string. This is important for administering personalised medicines. Mulder: “Because every DNA strand is unique each individual needs a different dosage. Reading DNA skilfully makes it possible to personalize medicine. This implies that cancer therapies can also be administered much more effectively.”

Close to home is the lithium chip of colleague company Medimate (established in High Tech Factory. Micronit is a partner and supplier of the chip that will be marketed within the foreseeable future. While lithium is a medicine used to combat manic depression it is also a notorious drug in terms of its side effects. If the patient himself regularly monitors the (fluctuating) lithium content in the blood he knows exactly how much lithium is needed. This saves a great deal of costly hospital tests and the patient feels more comfortable monitoring himself. “Medical self tests are a growing market for our chips. For instance, measuring an individual’s cholesterol level or other blood values at home”, says Mulder. “I expect our production in High Tech Factory to increase even further over the next few years.”