As a society that believes in a better future, we constantly seek new ways and new methods to improve our healthcare and manufacturing capabilities. Over the years, the U.S. has invested trillions of dollars in areas of development such as the discovery of new drugs and therapeutics to lengthen and enrich our lives, and the synthesis and characterization of new materials to build more energy-efficient buildings and safer consumer products. In order to continue pushing beyond our limits to achievie greater things, we need to understand how life and materials behave at a fundamental level. We need to provide researchers the necessary analytical tools to learn about the structure of biomolecules and other soft matter materials, which make up the basis of the world around us, so that they can make life-changing discoveries in lab.
Neptune Fluid Flow Systems LLC is a scientific hardware startup founded in 2016 by Dr. Trevor McQueen to improve the sample preparation, handling, and delivery processes for scientific research. Our current mission is to assist structural biologists and material scientists by making cryo-transmission electron microscopy (cryo-TEM) a reliable, reproducible, and repeatable way to visualize and study the three-dimensional soft material structures in order to advance drug design and advanced manufacturing industry in the U.S.
The field of cryo-TEM has exploded rapidly due to recent advances in detector technology and software algorithms, which makes near-atomic resolution achievable and simplifies many of the technical issues associated with three-dimensional reconstruction of biological soft materials in a near-native, hydrated state. Despite the tremendous amount of improvements happening on the downstream end of cryo-TEM workflow, sample preparation remains a largely unsolved problem given the issues of sample degradation and aggregation at the hydrophobic water-air interface—something that cannot be addressed by the current state-of-the-art cryo preparation system. In fact, due to reliability concerns over the current device, a large percentage of customers abandon the semi-automatic system entirely and instead prepare their samples entirely by hand!
Our direct competitor is the cryo preparation system and its variants that are currently on the market. However, they suffer from multiple flaws related to sample degradation and aggregation on grids. Meanwhile, there are several novel laboratory-grade methods for preparing cryo-TEM grids, which are currently under technical development in either companies or academic labs; thus, none of them will be commercially available in the immediate future.
Structural characterization in research work involving structural biology and materials science.
An advanced thin-film cryogenic sample preparation device designed to substantially improve sample preparation for the transmission electron microscopy (TEM) community.
Neptune Fluid Flow Systems is still in the R&D stage, testing the desirability, feasibility and viability of several methods for depositing and vitrifying soft matters onto cryo-TEM grids on a sub-one-millisecond timescale, as well as determining the best array of device features to provide to our customers. The next step is to build a functional prototype for further real-world testing, user feedback, and subsequent iterative improvement.