Pulling microfluidics out of a hat

News & events

Pulling microfluidics out of a hat

31 March, 2021

White Rabbit CIE SectionFor Dr Rob Ward and MacDiarmid Institute Principal Investigator Professor Bill Williams, commercialisation is the end point of a long learning process.

Together with recent engineering graduate Reuben Osborne, the pair are cofounders of White Rabbit, which has a vision to provide plug and play scientific equipment for microworld experiments. They are initially focussing on developing easy-to-use, reliable parts for microfluidics.

Microfluidics involves manipulation of liquids using micrometer-scale channels, valves, pumps and the like. This fast-growing technological field often goes by the label ‘lab-on-achip’, drawing an analogy with miniaturization of electronics in the second half of last century. Microfluidics has wide-ranging potential in areas such as sensing, diagnostics, genomics and proteomics, and even efficient industrial chemistry.

White Rabbit was born out of the belief that the scientific community can do better.

Professor Bill Williams Principal Investigator

In the lab Dr Ward and Professor Williams found out the hard way that off-the-shelf microfluidics equipment is not easy to use. Turns out they're not alone, and now they are in a position to leverage years of troubleshooting by developing and selling market-leading parts. Their first commercial product, the subject of a filed patent application, is a small ‘Appleesque’ high-precision syringe pump.

Professor Williams says that thinks that experimental work to develop new equipment and methodologies is important and often underappreciated. “Research labs generally have cupboards full of gizmos that languish into obscurity, while other labs reinvent the wheel. 

Stepping from the lab into the commercial world feels a bit like shifting into a new universe.

Dr Rob Ward

We want to produce devices that we would have loved to have had available when we started out, and that could have saved us many hours and research dollars.”

The MacDiarmid Institute has supported Dr Ward to scope opportunities, develop a commercial plan, and hone commercialisation skills. He says, “MacDiarmid has been a great source of ongoing training, support and advice, and we hope to draw more from their expertise over the coming years as we bring more products to market”.