Microfluidics foundry opens under A*STAR in Singapore

September 21, 2011 – ACN Newswire — The Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech), research institute within Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), opened the SIMTech Microfluidics Foundry (SMF), offering microfluidics development, customization, and manufacturing. These devices suit applications in healthcare, pharmaceutical, energy, water quality monitoring, biomedical, and chemical processing industries.

Singapore currently lacks a microfluidics, or lab-on-a-chip, industry, but the global microfluidics market is estimated to grow to US$5B in 2016 (Yole Developpement 2011, Microfluidic Substrates Market and Processing Trends), driven largely by biotechnology and microtechnology. Fluidigm, CAMTech, Clearbridge Biomedics, JN Medsys, Molbot and Fluigen have set up operations in Singapore for medical/life science applications. A*STAR’s foundry will exploit Singapore’s multi-disciplinary research capabilities in biomedical, physical and engineering sciences for microfluidics development.

Barriers to microfluidics adoption in applications from inkjet printing to cancer screenings include high manufacturing costs, lacking design and manufacturing standards for large volumes, and customization required for each application. Many biochips are fabricated using silicon wafers or glass slides. The special processes required during the manufacturing of these silicon-based biochips prove to be expensive for disposable applications. Polymer materials, on the other hand, are better suited for fluidic sample analyses and fabrication can be achieved in bulk at a fraction of the cost for disposable applications. Through its competencies and capabilities to address these challenges, SMF can help nurture and grow the microfluidic industry in Singapore.

SMF will host an integrated spectrum of design, simulation, prototyping, and scalable technology development for mass production of polymer-based microfluidic devices. Companies can work with the foundry to reduce costs and improve efficiency, translating lab processes and prototypes to commercially viable products..

Dr Lim Ser Yong, Executive Director of SIMTech said, "The SIMTech Microfluidics Foundry provides a low-risk environment for companies to place their capital-intensive investments for testing and implementing microfluidic technology solutions. It also offers a strong base for precision engineering and electronics companies to expand and pursue growth in other industries, assisting in the development of microfluidic products for biomedical, pharmaceutical and chemical companies and help start-ups to accelerate its commercialisation process by providing robust manufacturing capabilities and innovative microfluidic solutions."

Today, SIMTech signed three research agreements with Rhodia Asia Pacific, CAMTech Management and Molbot to develop high-throughput microfluidic tools for applications and product development in pharmaceuticals; for water quality monitoring and for gene cloning respectively. SIMTech also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with CAMTech Innovations (UK) and Clearbridge Biomedics to jointly develop design and manufacturing technologies of microfluidic devices for life science companies as well as intends to collaborate on development of manufacturing technologies and solutions for microfluidic devices for potential commercial use respectively. These microfluidic R&D commitments reflect the confidence of industry in SMF’s competencies and capabilities, seeding a growing microfluidic industry in Singapore.

Dr Mario El-Khoury, CSEM Chief Executive Officer, said: "The SIMTech Microfluidics Foundry is a successful outcome of the research collaboration between CSEM and SIMTech. Today, SMF is a milestone for Singapore to grow the microfluidic industry. We look forward to furthering our collaboration with SMF to advance the microfluidic technology and its applications that impact the quality of life, such as healthcare, biomedical and life science research."

Singapore’s government has $16.1 billion Singapore dollars earmarked for the Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2011 to 2015 Plan (RIE 2015), about 20% more than the previous quinquennium and a commitment of 1 per cent of expected Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to public sector research and innovation. Singapore aims to increase its gross expenditure on R&D (GERD) to 3.5 per cent of GDP by 2015.

SIMTech develops high-value manufacturing technology and human capital to contribute to the competitiveness of the Singapore industry. It collaborates with multinational and local companies in the precision engineering, electronics, semiconductor, medical technology, aerospace, automotive, marine, logistics and other sectors. For more information, visit www.SIMTech.a-star.edu.sg.

CSEM, Centre Suisse d’Electronique et de Microtechnique (Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology), founded in 1984, is a private applied research and development center specializing in micro- and nanotechnology, system engineering microelectronics and communications technologies. It offers its customers and industry partners custom-made, innovative solutions based on its knowledge of the market and the technological expertise derived from applied research. CSEM’s mission is to enhance the competitiveness of industry, particularly Swiss industry, by developing applied technology platforms in micro- and nanotechnologies and ICT and transferring them to the industrial sector. For more information, please visit www.csem.ch.

The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) is the lead agency for fostering world-class scientific research and talent for a vibrant knowledge-based and innovation-driven Singapore. A*STAR oversees 14 biomedical sciences and physical sciences and engineering research institutes, and six consortia & centres, located in Biopolis and Fusionopolis as well as their immediate vicinity. A*STAR supports Singapore’s key economic clusters by providing intellectual, human and industrial capital to its partners in industry. It also supports extramural research in the universities, and with other local and international partners. For more information about A*STAR, please visit www.a-star.edu.sg.

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