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Bruker snaps up super-resolution microscopy firm

29 Jul 2014

University of Utah spin-out Vutara acquired by the scientific instrumentation giant.

Analytical instrument maker Bruker has acquired Vutara, a US firm specializing in 3D, super-resolution fluorescence microscopy for life science applications.

The venture-backed University of Utah spin-out, which was founded in 2009 and is based in Salt Lake City, is expected to generate sales revenues of approximately $2 million this year, Bruker said.

The deal should complement Bruker’s existing biological microscopy business by adding super-resolution and single-molecule localization (SML) techniques to a broad portfolio already boasting multi-photon and fast, multi-point scanning confocal fluorescence microscopes. Bruker also sells high-performance atomic force microscopes.

Mark Munch, president of the Bruker division into which Vutara will slot, said: “Super-resolution microscopy is emerging as a critical requirement for our customers, and being able to integrate Vutara’s best-in-class, high-speed, 3D super-resolution systems with our line of multi-photon and multi-point scanning optical microscopy technologies will provide a significant benefit to the research community.”

“Achieving video-rate time resolution, higher spatial resolution, all with improved ease-of-use, is generating considerable excitement in this rapidly growing area, and this is exactly what Vutara brings to Bruker’s customers with its proprietary technology.”

Vutara describes its latest “SR-350” microscope as the only video-rate super-resolution microscope “available anywhere”. Its fast frame rate (more than 3000 frames per second) is achieved in part by the use of relatively powerful (1000 mW) laser excitation sources.

Capable of delivering an axial resolution of just 40 nm and a lateral resolution of 20 nm, the microscope can also acquire Z-axis stacks with a depth of up to 10 µm.

Localization algorithm
The SR-350 is the follow-up to Vutara’s flagship SR-200 microscope, said to be the first purpose-built, super-resolution microscope to deliver real-time 3D imaging. It is based on the company’s proprietary “biplane imaging” technology, which is used to convert super-resolution two-dimensional images into 3D information.

Biplane imaging is described in this 2009 paper, published in the online OSA journal Optics Express. In it, the authors introduce a new localization algorithm that is independent of theoretical models, making it more generally applicable to a variety of experimental realizations than other super-resolution approaches.

Vutara CEO Stan Kanarowski, who previously worked at Intel and a number of start-ups, said of the acquisition:

“Bruker’s prominence in life science research will further accelerate the adoption of our performance-leading super-resolution microscopes. Moreover, the combination of the Vutara and Bruker optical engineering and microscopy application experts is expected to lead to the development of a steady stream of additional innovative, high-impact products for cell and neurobiology research.”

Mike Szulczewski, VP and general manager of Bruker’s fluorescence microscopy business unit, added that Vutara’s 3D super-resolution technologies would immediately broaden the parent firm’s high-performance product offerings.

“It also allows us to further develop our solutions for the next level of functionality and versatility, with unique combinations of resolution, speed, depth and ease of use on samples ranging from live cells to living brains.”

Terms and conditions of the acquisition were not disclosed.

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