This year has brought a lot of progress for FlySorter:
- Back in March, we scrapped our previous approach to sorting — taking pictures of anesthetized flies on a pad — and began a new approach using awake flies.
- Over the summer, we built numerous prototypes of a mechanism to isolate an individual fly from a vial containing hundreds. This “fly valve” technology uses soft foam rollers to dispense one fly at a time, every few seconds, reliably and repeatably, and is the key to automating a variety of fly handling tasks.
- This fall, we packaged that mechanism into a compact, bench-top device we’re calling the Fly Dispenser and Counter, and recently we completed several beta trials in labs around the country.
The beta testing was immensely helpful in several ways. Of course the feedback from researchers actually using the product was invaluable, but we also learned about the hazards of shipping the device, the importance of documentation, how to make more than one of these products at a time, and more. We’re really close to finalizing the production version of the dispenser, which is quieter, faster, and easier to manufacture than the beta.
As a small startup, we try hard to focus our efforts on one thing at a time and avoid distraction. But along the way to developing the dispenser, we needed a way to verify it dispensed a fly (and only one fly) every time. So we turned to a common piece of lab equipment: the 96 well plate.
In conjunction with Ben de Bivort at Harvard University, we’ve adapted the 96 well plate for use with flies and created a new lid system that allows you to easily store and retrieve individual flies with an aspirator (or the dispenser, of course). We’re calling this the FlyPlate System. So we wound up developing two products at once!
I’m proud to announce that both of these products are now available for sale on our new website. The FlyPlate System is ready to go now, and orders placed now for the Dispenser will ship by the end of the year.