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Bruker expands optical microscopy portfolio with Luxendo deal

12 May 2017

Acquisition of Heidelberg-based spin-out from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory should aid optogenetics, embryology, and other cutting-edge applications.

The US-headquartered microscope company Bruker has acquired Luxendo, a recent spin-out from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) that has developed a low-phototoxicity system based on light-sheet fluorescence.

Based in Heidelberg, Germany, Luxendo had raised €8 million in venture finance as recently as January, saying that it needed the funds to expand sales, marketing and servicing activity related to its proprietary single plane illumination microscopy (SPIM) instruments after experiencing higher-than-expected demand from both academic and industrial customers.

The SPIM technology, which is equipped with two sCMOS cameras, is based around an inverted optical setup and comes with customizable laser illumination at up to eight different wavelengths.

The twin advantages of the approach, compared with regular laser scanning confocal microscopes, are that sampling time and phototoxicity – and therefore damaging side effects to living specimens – are both greatly reduced.

Luxendo’s microscopes are able to offer lower phototoxicity by only illuminating a sequential stack of thin slices of the organism being viewed at any one time.

“This technology allows scientists to observe living organisms for extended periods of time without them being adversely impacted by phototoxicity,” stated the firm previously.

Embryology to optogenetics
For Bruker, the deal – for an undisclosed sum – represents the latest move to update its microscopy portfolio with innovative optical techniques aimed at applications such as live cell imaging and super-resolution microscopy.

In 2014 the Billerica, Massachusetts, firm acquired the University of Utah spin-out Vutara, whose research team had developed a 3D super-resolution technique based around a relatively powerful laser source.

And late last year Bruker commercialized an all-optical holographic module for stimulating and imaging multiple neurons in neural networks, targeting the fast-growing and high-profile market for optogenetics research.

Luxendo’s CEO Andreas Pfuhl says that light-sheet microscopy is “revolutionizing” the field of biological imaging, with the EMBL spin-out playing an influential role in its adoption for live-sample studies.

“We feel that our history with EMBL has given us unique insights into what bio-imaging researchers need both right now and in the near future,” he said. “We are very gratified to join an internationally esteemed instrumentation company like Bruker, whose philosophy, culture and reputation so closely align with our research-oriented goals.”

Much of the microscope development took place at EMBL, under the leadership of the lab’s cell biology and biophysics chief Lars Hufnagel, before Luxendo was founded in September 2015.

Portfolio ‘transformation’
The SPIM microscopes are expected to improve Bruker's existing portfolio of swept-field confocal, super-resolution, and multiphoton fluorescence microscope product lines, enabling new research advances in small organism embryology, live-cell imaging, brain development and cleared brain tissue, and optogenetics applications.

“This acquisition is another important step forward in Bruker's portfolio transformation,” states the company, with Mark Munch, president of the “Bruker NANO” division, adding:

“With its strong intellectual property position and unique SPIM technology, Luxendo has quickly established itself in the light-sheet microscopy market, particularly in Europe.”

He adds that, like the Vutara acquisition, the new capabilities will provide synergies with the firm’s current microscopy products. “We feel that we can take the business to the next level in both global market reach and next-generation development, which should greatly benefit our life sciences research customers,” he said.

EMBL’s director general Iain Mattaj added: “It has been very rewarding to witness the rapid trajectory from pioneering technology developed at EMBL to Luxendo's well-designed, robust microscopes, and now this acquisition.

“We anticipate that Bruker, with its excellent reputation in providing innovative technology, will make SPIM even more widely available. It will be truly exciting to see what the larger biological research community will discover with light-sheet microscopy.”

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