The Netherlands-based Delmic is set to bring fundamental change to electron tomography work-flows, making microscopy faster, more accessible and affordable. Chief executive and co-founder, Sander Den Hoedt, explains his company’s plans.
Sander den Hoedt, Delmic CEO
Tell us a little about Delmic’s history.
Delmic was founded in 2011. It started out as a spin-off from Delft University of Technology and AMOLF, the materials research institute, in Amsterdam. We are the result of research groups that combined fundamental research with building tools to tackle scientific challenges. Today, our company employees 40 people and is continuing to innovate to provide technologies that help scientists get reliable data faster and more easily.
What were your first products?
We started out with the world’s first commercially available integrated correlative light and electron microscopy (iCLEM) solution called SECOM. Shortly thereafter we added the SPARC, a cathodoluminescence (CL) detector.
How have your products evolved over time?
We have always had an approach of rapidly iterating our products. We took our first academic prototypes and improved upon them to create a minimum viable product. Shortly thereafter we re-designed these to make them more robust for a wider market. For SECOM, this meant vastly improving the stage, as well as adding new modalities to it, such as super resolution microscopy. We also extended SECOM towards the table-top, creating DELPHI, a dedicated iCLEM system. For SPARC, we extended the system to be able to measure almost every dimension of light. Starting with just intensity and spectral maps, we quickly added angle-resolved imaging, full polarimetry and time sensitivity. We also created a solution called LAB Cube to allow people to perform time sensitive measurements without having to modify their electron microscope. Late last year we introduced the JOLT as an entry level model for anybody interested in panchromatic or RGB CL intensity mapping.
What products are you developing at the moment?
We are currently hard at work on a new generation of products for cryogenic electron microscopy, as well as large volume EM. With FAST-EM we are launching a solution that can image biological thin samples a hundred times faster than conventional EM. In cryogenic EM we are launching METEOR, a retrofittable integrated fluorescence solution for anyone with a cryo-focused ion beam (FIB). Fluorescence labeling is instrumental to the identification of specific molecules of interest. The current state of the art involves transporting a sample between a fluorescence microscope and the cryo-FIB, which increases the risk of sample damage. METEOR solves this problem by integrating fluorescence microscopy with cryo FIB. Within the growing field of cryo-electron tomography (ET), there is a need to improve the current workflows around creating thin lamellae for the cryo-TEM. In order for cryo-ET to really take off, these workflows will need to become much faster and, above all, much more reliable.
Have you examples of applications for your products?
While SPARC is mostly used in materials research applications, such as fundamental research into the behavior of light and matter at the nanoscale, it is also beneficial to companies that are designing better LEDs and solar panels. For SECOM and DELPHI, we primarily have academic users who carry out a wide range of research, although we are seeing some recurring applications such as cancer and diabetes research.
What are your plans for future products?
We are really committed to solving the workflow in cryo ET, as we believe this is an incredibly important technology in which the sample preparation still presents a huge bottleneck. Shortly after METEOR, we will therefore be launching a solution that will significantly speed up this process, and we will continue to make major workflow improvements over the coming years.
“In five years’ time we aim to have fundamentally changed the way certain EM workflows are being done.” Sander den Hoedt, Delmic CEO
Why make the decision to focus on life-science imaging?
For us, the switch back to life sciences imaging was a logical extension of where the SECOM technology had originally brought us. From SECOM we learned that we can dramatically improve the EM workflow. We believe that we have a unique vision on EM and that the field, and thereby biological research, can benefit from our developments.
Where would you like see Delmic in five years’ time?
In five years’ time we aim to have fundamentally changed the way certain EM workflows are being done. By focusing on advanced automation and reliability we aim to make EM more accessible, more affordable and more useful to the community as a whole.