Under the Microscope: the Cytocell myProbes custom FISH probes team

Wednesday 2 November 2016
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From their office in Cambridge, UK, the Cytocell myProbes® team works with a range of departments to deliver custom solutions to customers worldwide.

Interview with Karina Mak-Hannah, Cytocell Project and Development Manager

The Cytocell myProbes team

Which teams are involved in the myProbes custom FISH probe process – and when did it all begin?

In 2010 the myProbes concept was born from the demand for custom probes that were not commercially available. Within the R&D team, the development group was responsible for creating a suitable myProbes procedure, working closely with the customer to establish their requirements and efficiently produce a custom product. The procedure also had to ensure the latest QC standards were met, and over time gradually expanded to encapsulate more involvement from other departments within the company, including the Marketing, Dispatch and Regulatory departments.

Can you describe the custom FISH probe Process at OGT?

Working with the customer, we capture specific technical needs of the custom probe, then the R&D team in Cambridge gets started on its research to determine the best way to design and produce the custom probe. Once we have completed our research, we put together a detailed design proposal which is sent to the customer for review. If our customers are happy with what we have proposed, they sign off the design and we start the project. Depending on the complexity of the project, we can deliver custom probes in as little as 4 weeks.

How has customer feedback contributed to the expansion of the FISH probe product offering?

The myProbes concept grew with steadily increasing customer interest, receiving multiple requests for certain probes. It was evident that some of these  should become available as catalogue products. Capitalizing on our strengths, we entered selected myProbes products into the new product development pipeline, eventually making them commercially available to everyone. Last year we launched 27 new products.

How has the myProbes program evolved?

At the beginning of this year customers fed back the desire for a faster delivery of repeat order products. Responding to this, we improved our capabilities and ensured we can now provide the probes within 2 weeks, if they have been previously made. Since we also receive many requests for the same probes from different customers, we also frequently update a list of previously made myProbes, which enables customers to see quickly if the probe they are looking for might already be available under the myProbes program. Of course we have a thorough procedure in place to ensure the requested probe meets their exact specifications before we proceed.

Are there any unique FISH probe projects that you can share with us?

To date we have supplied over 600 myProbes products it would be hard to share just one unique one! We are enthusiastic and take pride in supporting any kind of research project, including non-human FISH probes. All projects are treated as bespoke, each proving to have some unique elements that make development exciting and interesting, such as exploring new designs and discovering new diseases. It is also a challenge to optimize new probes tailored to customer requirements such as specific sample types, and to meet the needs of high throughput labs with a demanding workflow.

What’s the future of FISH – and how has FISH technology improved?

FISH is a well-established and trusted diagnostic method. Its simplicity and robustness still prevails by providing quick and reliable results. We have constantly improved probe development and manufacturing methods over time, with the goal of ensuring probes work rapidly and are robust, and the signals are at their brightest and most discrete for readability with automated systems.  In recent years there is an increasing demand for non-human FISH probes (ZooFISH), used for example in animal reproduction centers. The equipment used for FISH has improved significantly as well, such as microscope filters having smaller spectrum windows to result in less probe signal bleeding through different filters.

How does the team work together outside the lab?

There are plenty of socializing events outside work (e.g. bowling, go-karting, etc.), and recently there was even a trip to Brighton. Occasionally we have internationally-themed lunches organised where everyone can show off culinary talents from their country of origin. There is even a crosswords group for the most adventurous of us!

myProbes R&D Team

  • Katarzyna Kania – Research Scientist
  • Adrienn Gocza-Blasko – Research Assistant
  • Ana Castro-Justo – Research Assistant
  • Erica Harris – Research Assistant
  • Rebecca Richer - Research Assistant
  • Gothami Lakshika Fonseka – Research Scientist
  • Richard Frodsham – Research Manager
  • Karina Mak-Hannah – Project and Development Manager

myProbes Support Team

  • Karina Mak-Hannah - Project and Development Manager
  • Richard Frodsham - Research Manager
  • Steve Chatters – Senior Product Manager Pathology
  • Faidra Partheniou – Product Manager Cytogenetics
  • Ana Castro-Justo - Research Assistant

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