Development of a Maskless Array Synthesizer

Period of Performance: 05/01/2000 - 10/31/2000


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Nimblegen Systems, Inc.
Madison, WI 53711
Principal Investigator


Genome sequencing projects and the development of "DNA chips", or high- density oligonucleotide microarrays (OMAs), allow researchers to perform high throughput genetic tests, including genome-wide expression monitoring and genotyping for disease diagnosis and prediction. Currently, the major drawbacks of the OMAs are their high cost and long lead time, which result from the photolithography process used in their manufacture. A large number of expensive masks must be fabricated to pattern the OMAs, resulting in high setup costs for each new design. The objective of this proposal is to develop a commercial instrument that uses a new technology that allows facile and economical synthesis of OMAs. This instrument would be sold to researchers interested in fabricating their own OMAs in their own laboratories at an economical price. The technology involves the creation of "virtual" masks with a microarray of mirrors controlled by a computer. Patterns of light created by the micromirror array replace the expensive photolithography masks and greatly reduce the time required to synthesize a custom OMA. Proof of principle has already been established that demonstrates the feasibility of the proposal. PROPOSED COMMERCIAL APPLICATION: Currently, oligonucleotide microarrays are very expensive (about $1,000) and only a limited variety are available. Access to the described instrument would allow any laboratory to rapidly overnight synthesize custom oligonucleotide microarrays, thus addressed the market's needs in this large, high growth field.