Biological Sciences

New high throughput cell-selection system to speed medical advances and research

Edinburgh Genome Foundry has invested in a cutting edge system, funded by a £2 million grant from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), that will speed advances in medicine and fast-track other areas of science.

The Beacon® Optofluidics system from Berkeley Lights
The Beacon® Optofluidics system from Berkeley Lights

The Beacon® Optofluidics system from Berkeley Lights, offers a radical improvement in the speed and ease of developing, analysing and selecting cells that produce the key components of new treatments, therapies and drugs.

The system will also speed the development of basic academic research which increasingly requires working with large data sets and the ability to work at speed and scale.


Edinburgh Genome Foundry, a research facility based at the University of Edinburgh, is the first institution in Europe, outside of industry, to purchase and offer access to this system.

The Foundry will provide open access to the system, making it available to new and existing customers in academia and industry across the world.

It will enable advances that mean research projects can rapidly progress to understand and find new ways to tackle disease, and potential treatments can reach clinical trials faster. 

One-Stop Shop

Producing cells that have useful medical or research properties involves analysis of thousands of cells to identify those with the optimal properties, prior to selection and scaling up of their production.

Edinburgh Genome Foundry
Edinburgh Genome Foundry

The system provides researchers with a one-stop shop that automates and simplifies this process - improving accuracy, reducing costs and shortening timescales from months to days. 

Traditional methods of sifting through, analysing and manipulating thousands of cells is precise, labour intensive work that is open to human error and often requires months of laboratory work.

Expanding the Automated Platform

The integration of the new Beacon system, builds on and expands Edinburgh Genome Foundry’s sophisticated automated platform – one of the most advanced in the world.

The Foundry builds genetic constructs for academic and industrial customers to equip cells or whole organisms with new or improved functions. 

Projects using this pipeline include programming stem cells for use in personalised medicine, vaccine development, gene therapy, living biosensors and optical tools for basic biological research. 


It is amazing cutting edge technology that allows you to use light to select and sift thousands of individual cells at once. This will enable us to perform high-throughput single cell analysis at huge scale resulting in deep profiling with relevant phenotypic, genotypic and imaging information for each cell. There is nothing else like it. This is the first Beacon system to be placed in an academic institution in  Europe. It is exciting for us to access the power of the system and open it up to work with our academic and industrial colleagues.

Susan RosserProfessor of Synthetic Biology at the University of Edinburgh, RAEng Chair in Emerging Technologies, Co-director of Edinburgh Genome Foundry


Acquiring the Beacon System allows Edinburgh Genome Foundry to derive high quality, high-throughput analytical data on thousands of individual cells, without the need for a whole room of equipment, expanding the Foundry’s state-of-the-art infrastructure. This not only gives us the ability to identify the ‘needle in a haystack’ cell with unique and desirable properties but also enables machine learning approaches which are not feasible with current methodologies.

Dr Rennos FragkoudisManager, Edinburgh Genome Foundry


Berkeley Lights is pleased to work with the Edinburgh Genome Foundry as they expand global access to digital cell biology for scientists in both academia and industry. Based at the University of Edinburgh, the Foundry combines multidisciplinary research with the time-saving power of the Beacon system which will enable scientists to make important discoveries at a speed and scale not previously available.  We look forward to seeing how our technology helps to advance cell science and therapeutics developed at Edinburgh Genome Foundry.

Mimi HealeyChief Product Officer, Berkeley Lights, Inc


Related Links

Edinburgh Genome Foundry 

UK Centre for Mammalian Synthetic Biology

Berkeley Lights, Inc