SiMPore Inc., an early-stage nanotechnology company in Rochester, NY, has received a Phase I SBIR grant from the National Institutes of Health to improve phase contrast transmission electron microscopy (TEM).
An electron microscope uses a beam of electrons instead of light to illuminate an object of interest. It allows the object to be observed at one-million-times magnification or greater. In theory, this level of magnification should permit biomedical researchers to see the three-dimensional structure of a virus or similarly sized biological molecule. However, current TEM methods are limited in certain aspects. Phase contrast promises to overcome some of these inherent limitations of TEM imaging of biological structures.
The technology that SiMPore develops will increase the practicality of phase-contrast TEM to image biological molecules. By fabricating next generation phase plates, a core component of phase-contrast TEM, SiMPore hopes to increase the practical accessibility of this method. SiMPore will apply its expertise in the fabrication of thin-films to create a new class of highly manufacturable phase plates.
The grant application elicited both high scores and favorable compliments from NIH reviewers. The reviewers unanimously acknowledged that the proposed work addresses an unmet need, is highly innovative and greatly significant. They also recognized that the proposal could have a high-degree of immediate impact on the field of electron microscopy.
Dr. Christopher Striemer, Vice-President of Membrane Development at SiMPore, said, "We believe several key factors contributed to the success of our application. Our expertise in thin-film micro-fabrication, combined with the electron microscopy expertise of our collaborator, and a clear market need for these components, provided a strong basis for our proposal. Our case was very compelling."
SiMPore will collaborate with the New York State Department of Health's Wadsworth Center, which will test the phase plates SiMPore develops. Mr. Michael Marko of the Wadsworth Center, a recognized expert in the use of phase plates, will direct the evaluation of SiMPore's prototypes. Mr. Marko has developed several first-in-class innovations in phase-contrast electron microscopy.