Gray Optics excels at developing optical solutions to improve medical and life science research tools. Our team helps companies translate their PCR product concept into an easy-to-manufacture instrument ready for full-scale commercialization by integrating our optical design engineering expertise with our product development process.
Scientists and medical professionals rely on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to quickly replicate DNA samples for various types of genetic analysis. For example, scientists use PCR to increase quantities of DNA from full or partial strands of DNA. This copied DNA allows for detailed research in life science, human health, forensics, and optimizing crops in the lab or field for agricultural applications.
How PCR Works and What It’s Used For
To replicate DNA through PCR, one starts by heating the original DNA sample. This step separates the two intertwined strands of DNA into single strands in a process called “denaturing.” Once denatured, a Taq polymerase enzyme synthesizes two new DNA strands from the original sample. This process duplicates the original DNA, with each new molecule harboring an old and a new strand of DNA. This process is typically repeated up to 40 times, resulting in more than a billion copies of the original segment of DNA. Since the PCR cycle is highly automated, new systems can complete the entire process in about 1-hour or less.
Optics plays a crucial role in the PCR process. The amplified DNA is tagged with a dye molecule (fluorophore) that, when illuminated with light of one color (wavelength), emits light of a different, red-shift color for detection. The level of emitted fluorescence light determines the concentration of DNA through predetermined calibration models. Correctly designing the illumination and detection optics is crucial to ensuring any PCR instrument performs tests reliably and repeatedly, with high accuracy. This accuracy is vital for 4-, 5- and 6-channel fluorescence PCR instruments when there is a small overlap of fluorophores in absorption and emission wavelengths. In addition, the design engineer must consider the effects of spectral crosstalk between fluorophores.
Our PCR Diagnostics Capabilities
Precise fluorescence PCR testing relies on having optimized illumination and detection pathways. This optimization requires end-to-end optics customization from the light source to the detector. Our LED illumination expertise can offer design solutions for various instrument architectures and form factors with LED light sources replacing traditional lamp technologies. When you work with us on your PCR diagnostics project, we provide the following:
Addressing pain points. Gray Optics’ expertise in fluorescence wavelengths and overlap sensitivities and optical instrumentation optimization can help develop a thorough understanding of our customer’s requirements. We use this basis to define the product concept and base for a design solution.
Custom design processes. Our NPD process can meet the needs of PCR which requires meticulous end-to-end design customization. Our Concept Development Phase enables us to design the optical pathway successfully the first time, with minimal design iterations, enabling our customers to accelerate their product development plans.
Highly complex solutions. Once the fluorophores and illumination source are selected, our engineers design the entire optical pathway optimized around the needs of your specific application. Once the design is approved, we complete design verification work before moving the design into prototype manufacturing and volume manufacturing.
Work We’ve Done
- Project: PCR Instrument for Point of Care Diagnostic Testing
- The Problem: Poorly designed lenses result in low accuracy test results that did not meet standards for a regulated PCR instrument. This project aimed to help the customer by adequately designing the LED illumination optics for maximum light collection and enabling reliable and repeatable diagnostic testing with high accuracy.
- The Solution: Our design engineering team worked collaboratively with the customer’s product development team to understand the preliminary test results’ problems and the instrument specifications and end-user requirements for operation and the end application. We used this information to inform the optical design approach and determine critical deliverables to meet the customer’s needs.
- The Outcome: Gray Optics’ optimized the lens design for each LED illumination pathway to work with the selected fluorophore and optical filters for excitation and detection channels, delivering the results on time and budget. Having built trust through technical leadership and optical design authority, the customer requested additional support to select a suitable supplier for the optics and perform quality control inspection of the optical lenses to ensure they met the specification and would work when installed.
“It is rare to find standout talent like the team at Gray Optics. Our collaboration with Gray Optics achieved many exciting firsts to facilitate the development of a robust, easy-to-integrate solution. The strong attention to detail has been valuable when technical challenges arise, and we have thorough documentation for why and how we went about design iterations. Gray Optics is a highly recommended development team.”
– VP Product Development, Diagnostics Company, USA
Contact Gray Optics
We are proud to support and be a trusted partner to OEM instrument companies in medical and life science instrument markets and invite you to learn more about our collaborative partnership model and How We Work.