Honors Gallery

Laser Analysis and Sorting Instrument (LASI)

Award: Excellence in Technology Transfer

Year: 2019

Award Type:

Region: Mid-Atlantic

U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL)

The Laser Analysis and Sorting Instrument (LASI) is a Navy-patented device and method of using lasers to separate and characterize particles in fluids. Developed at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), the technology uses a combination of advanced optics and microfluidics.

A fluid flow pushes samples containing particulates through a network of flowing channels, where laser light interacts with streaming particles to create optical forces unique to those particles. Different particles, such as red blood cells or bacteria, react differently based on factors like size, surface morphology, shape, refractive index, and internal structures. By measuring cell responses, the instrument can identify and sort single cells based on their physical, biochemical, and biological characteristics.

The NRL team—Dr. Sean Hart, Dr. Rita Manak, Alex Terray, and Amanda Horansky McKinney—were principally responsible for the successful LASI technology transfer to LumaCyte, LLC, a research, instrumentation, and analytics company based in Charlottesville, Virginia. Formal transfer of the NRL-developed technology to LumaCyte occurred under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) signed in March 2014, followed by a Patent License Agreement (PLA) executed in the same month.

By measuring cell responses, the instrument can identify and sort single cells based on their physical, biochemical, and biological characteristics.

The technology transfer effort built upon professional relationships among the team members that began years earlier at NRL, where co-inventors Dr. Hart and Terray worked together for more than a decade developing LASI technology. These relationships underlie the unique aspect of this transfer: the uncommon technology transfer process of an NRL inventor (Dr. Hart) leaving the lab to create a company (LumaCyte) specifically to transition his invention, while his co-inventor (Terray) remained at NRL, running the LASI program and serving as the Navy lab’s lead during the technology transfer. Under the CRADA and PLA agreements negotiated by NRL’s technology transfer experts (Dr. Manak and Horansky McKinney), the two LASI researchers sustained a constant, symbiotic exchange of information that yielded a much-improved commercial product.

This effort led directly to LumaCyte’s LASI-based Radiance™ instrument now on the market, which offers a more rapid, highly sensitive automated analysis and sorting of cell mixtures.

By depending on the cell’s intrinsic properties, LASI has the noteworthy feature of not requiring the addition of antibody or genetic labels typically used to tag cells pre-assay. This is a significant advance over similar instrument technologies. There is a constant need for more powerful laboratory tools across the myriad fields within biological research, development, and technology. Anticipated beneficiaries of the Navy technology include R&D programs in vaccine manufacturing, cell therapy, infectious disease, drug discovery, and cancer diagnostics and treatment.

Contact: Dr. Sean Hart, (888) 472-9295, [email protected]

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