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SMEs with software/electrical engineering expertise sought for the development of an Automated Opto-Biomechatronics Systems Technology for Cancer Research and Personalized Chemotherapy Testing using a Fertilized Chicken Egg Assay

Country of Origin: Germany
Reference Number: TRDE20200211001
Publication Date: 20 February 2020


A German university aims to build a fertilized chick embyro membrane (CAM) test system for the biomedicine market: an opto-biomechatronics system, OvoMate, will combine optical analysis of tumor growth, apply test drugs and sampling of growing tumor on CAM in a fully robotized egg handling and incubator environment. Therefore, they are looking for SMEs with software/electrical engineering expertise to start a cooperation via research cooperation agreement.


The German university comprises three applied research institutes from medical biotechnology, multiscale engineering and tumor pathology. One partner from the Medical Faculty has substantial expertise in using fertilized chicken egg embryos for studies of tumor biology, tumor medicine and personalized drug testing. That approach provides a vast advantage over existing test methods involving patient tumor cell transplantation to mice and tumor growth and drug responsiveness studies that usually take weeks in the mouse model, but only a few days in the chicken chorio-allantois membrane (CAM chicken embryo) model. The CAM model is also not considered a live animal experiment which facilitates its use without elaborate ethics and authority regulations. 
One shortcoming of the conventional CAM model, however, is the limited throughput in diagnostics, as eggs are still manually handled, manipulated, and all bioanalytics is carried out by taking eggs in-and-out from their incubator environment, thus impeding breeding continuity. The engineering partners of the university have therefore envisioned a fully robotized automated opto-biomechatronics platform to handle eggs in a high-throughput fashion and standardized environmental control chamber to monitor and control temperature, oxygen supply and humidity. Multiple fertilized eggs need to be positioned, for instance, in a turret-like configuration to be repeatedly revisited for optical analysis. An automated egg shell cutter must be developed to have a standardized decapitation of the upper egg shell for optical and pipetting access to the CAM. An optics system, preferentially upright epifluorescence configuration and external miniaturized micro-CT shall be combined to obtain images of growing tumor vessels and tumor size on the CAM after pipette-injection of patient tumor cells obtained from biopsies. Illumination shall include a side-way LED illumination for even imaging from top. A robotic arm with a pipette for injection and sampling shall be included. Multiple actuators and sensor technologies, plus optical systems technologies need to be combined in a controlled I/O-control system. The German university covers the expertise in opto-biomechatronics and mechanical engineering and sensor technologies. The German university partner in pathology will provide biological samples and tumor biology expertise to validate the system and benchmark it against conventional manual handling of CAM.
They are now looking for a industrial partner for a research cooperation. The expertise required from the industrial partner shall lie in the areas of software and electrical engineering, to connect the various hardware components and harmonize software control and design GUIs (graphical user interfaces) and data streaming/analysis pipelines. The partnerhsip with the industrial partner is expected to contribute to a publicly funded project (funding programmes with international focus at national or European level) to drive the development of the OvoMate system to a functional prototype. The prototype can then jointly be patented and marketed. Either the external partner will have a distribution platform and is interested in marketing the system with participation of the university partner, or the German university will opt to apply for EXIST funding to create a spin-off company that covers the opto-biomechatronics production, with the external partner contributing as sub-contractor with electrical engineering services.

Expertise sought

They are expecting expertise in software/electrical engineering and (biomedical) systems integration from mechatronics/sensor technology components.
They expect the partner to team up with the German university partner to write a joint R%26D proposal for funding for developing the OvoMate system. Within a funded project, the partner will be able to receive funding for staff/ressources on his side.
They expect the final system to be introduced to the market either by the partner, a yet to create university spin-off or approaching investors/distributors for commercialization.

Stage Of Development

Concept stage

Requested partner

Kind of Partner: it MUST be an industry partner, preferably a small medium enterprise (SME) to qualify the project for public funding initiatives (at national or European level).

Area of activity: IT solutions, software and electrical engineering with design and distribution of custom-tailored metrologies, preferably but not restricted to biomedical applications.

Requisites: The partner should be able to provide CE certification and ISO9000 certifications. The partner should also have experience in R&D projects or be interested in applying for a joint project with appropriate funding agencies.

Tasks to be performed: While the German university will design and assemble and test the echatronics/optical/sensor units and perform the biomedical benchmark, the tasks of the partner include:
- Joint development of the opto-biomechatronics concept of the OvoMate and aspiring the electrical control and sensor data integration of the system in an intuitive software environment: integration of communication interfaces of different components (optical devices, CCD camera, environmental sensors, stepper motor control, actuation) and design of intuitive command software, preferably in common open source environments (e.g. Python);
- Selection of the best I/O and data management strategy tailored for biomedical end users (university pathology partner will provide end user specifications);
- Contribution to the writing of an R&D proposal to funding agencies;
- Joint commercialization of the system, either in an own protfolio or approaching distributors as a team.
A project outline with more detailed information on the project does exist and can be provided replying to suitable EOIs.

Cooperation offer ist closed for requests