Picoliter Inc. Announces Patent on Formation of Multi-Layer Droplets

Picoliter Inc. announced today it has been awarded a second patent, extending its intellectual property to include using focused acoustics to form droplets consisting of more than one liquid layer. U.S. Patent (No. 6,548,308) entitled “Focused Acoustic Energy Method and Device for Generating Droplets of Immiscible Fluids” describes technology Picoliter believes will be important for controlling evaporation in low volume assays and simulating biological systems.

April 23, 2003
Sunnyvale, CA
Sunnyvale, CA, April 24, 2003—Picoliter Inc. announced today it has been awarded a second patent, extending its intellectual property to include using focused acoustics to form droplets consisting of more than one liquid layer.  U.S. Patent (No. 6,548,308) entitled “Focused Acoustic Energy Method and Device for Generating Droplets of Immiscible Fluids” describes technology Picoliter believes will be important for controlling evaporation in low volume assays and simulating biological systems.

The new Picoliter patent describes a process for making droplets with two or more layers by ejecting one fluid through another.  This technology addresses an important challenge for reducing assay volume—slowing evaporation—by protecting tiny droplets of volatile liquids with coatings of a less volatile liquid.  Other applications include encapsulation of droplets for formation of micelles, control of crystallization rates, and particle formation for generation of drug formulations.

The economics of industrialized biology continue to fuel the desire for reduction in assay volumes as a way to decrease the cost per data point through more efficient use of expensive reagents and improved automation.  However, the main barriers to decreasing cost have been lack of reliable instrumentation for small volume transfers and control of evaporation.  The Picoliter® liquid handling technology, covered in the company’s first patent, U.S. 6,416,164, provides a unique solution to the small volume transfer problem. This technology has been demonstrated to reliably transfer droplets as small as 0.1 picoliter (a picoliter is a millionth of a millionth of a liter) and as large as microliters with no contact between the device and the solution being transferred.  The extension of this technology to multiplayer droplets for controlling evaporation provides another enabling tool for assay miniaturization.

“I was convinced of the power of this new approach to evaporation control when our scientists used the technology described in our new patent to reduce the volume of an aqueous competitive binding assay from 350 uL to 100 pL, more than a million times smaller.  This technology could save hundreds of millions of dollars worth of reagents, rare materials and cell preparation costs in life science laboratories,” said Elaine J. Heron, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer of Picoliter Inc.

Picoliter Inc. is a privately held company located in Sunnyvale, California.  The Picoliter® liquid handling technology has broad applications in the life science including dispensing equipment, assay systems, particle manufacturing, microarrays, and living cell transfer devices.  The company’s initial product will be a system for precisely transferring low nanoliter volumes of potential drug compounds into assay plates.  Initial test sites for this instrument are currently being established.  Picoliter has over 25 patent applications pending with the USPTO as well as additional international filings.  For more information, visit the company’s website,www.labcyte.com.