IAA – Development and Commercialisation of AzuFluor™ Fluorescent Dyes for Bioimaging

Project: Research council

Project Details


This project has arisen from the work of an EPSRC-funded DTP student, Mr Lloyd Murfin, supervised by Dr Simon Lewis (EPSRC have confirmed this is an eligible funding footprint for IAA funding). The doctoral work has involved a class of molecules called “azulenes”; we have designed and synthesised several novel azulene molecules that exhibit a change in their properties (most obviously a change of colour or fluorescence) when exposed to specific substances.

As such, they can therefore be used to detect said substances. This work has culminated in the publication (Dec 2019) of a paper in the extremely prestigious Journal of the American Chemical Society, which has been selected for the department’s REF2021 return: “Azulene-Derived Fluorescent Probe for Bioimaging: Detection of Reactive Oxygen and Nitrogen Species by Two-Photon Microscopy”, L. C. Murfin, T. D. James,* S. E. Lewis* et al., J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2019, 141, 19389-19396. doi:10.1021/jacs.9b09813.

In this work we describe a novel fluorescent dye molecule (“AzuFluor™ 483-Bpin”) which can be used for bioimaging, fluorescing only in the presence of certain “reactive oxygen species” (ROS). These ROS play crucial roles in various diseases including cancer and Alzheimer’s. Thus, tools to enable the study of ROS are highly desirable to the bioimaging community. As evidence of this, we have begun to receive (unsolicited) emails from labs across the world, enquiring how they can acquire this AzuFluor™ dye for use in their own research. Additionally, the paper has achieved >8500 downloads in 9 weeks, been highlighted by the editor in a “JACS Spotlight”, and remains in the “JACS most downloaded” list, attesting to the interest this has generated. In view of the clear potential market for this AzuFluor™, we are seeking to commercialise it, partnering with Ximbio Ltd to do so. Ximbio are a distributor of life sciences reagents, who specialise in working with University TTOs to bring reagents discovered in academia to market. We will supply AzuFluor™ 483-Bpin to Ximbio, who will market and promote it, listing it on their website, and will also handle all warehousing/inventory, shipping and MTAs. Building on the above, we now seek IAA support to develop and commercialise an entire family of AzuFluor™ dyes. The significance of AzuFluor™ 483- Bpin is that it is the first use of an azulene as a fluorophore for bioimaging – we have now opened up a large space for the development of azulene-based fluorescent dyes with differing characteristics, e.g. ones that respond to different analytes, that fluoresce at different wavelengths, that localise in different cellular compartments, etc. Our long-term vision is of an extensive product range from which a biologist could select the ideal AzuFluor™ dye for a given application. Building on our base of accrued knowledge and expertise, we are targeting the development of at least six further AzuFluor™ dyes over the duration of this project, validation of their functions and production of quantities to supply our commercial partner for onward sale.
Effective start/end date1/07/2030/06/21


  • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council


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