A Dandenong engineering company is helping to accelerate the pace of medical science at the Australian Synchrotron.
A specialist manufacturer of one-off parts for V8 supercar teams, Flexicut has begun making sample holders that will speed up the development of drugs to treat cancer, HIV-AIDS and other major diseases.
Researchers from around the world can use the sample holders, called pucks, to carry their samples to the Australian Synchrotron, where the pucks slot straight into a robot-controlled system for a technique called x-ray crystallography (macromolecular crystallography or ‘MX’ for short).
Left: the new pucks partly loaded with crystal pins.
This new advance will make it much easier for researchers to analyse their samples online from the comfort of their own laboratories around Australia or overseas, speeding up the development of new drugs and improving our knowledge of how to treat diseases such as cancer, tuberculosis, HIV-AIDS, blood clotting disorders, diabetes, transplant rejection, and many more.
“For the team at Flexicut, this was a change from our usual work in making one-off parts for V8 supercar teams,” Robbie O'Brien, Director of Flexicut, said. "The synchrotron job is exactly the type of work we love. The job requires very accurate tolerances and high quality work - the sort of thing we specialise in".
Tom Caradoc-Davies from the synchrotron said: "We were initially going to get the pucks made in China as we need a large number of them and had to keep costs down. We were very lucky to find Robbie and his team as we were able to get very high precision work at a price we could afford."
Releasing the new pucks to users will increase the uptake of robotics at the MX beamlines and increase the amount of science that can be done in the same amount of time.
"The pucks make using the robot much simpler and more appealing to our users,” Tom says. “This will also make the beamline easier to use and support, a win-win for all.
"This is a great example of a local company working with us to help improve the day-to-day lives of every Australian.”
Above right: Alan Riboldi-Tunnicliffe (AS) loads a crystal pin into a new puck