HTX Imaging launches Matrix Sublimator, developed by M4I, on the market

The Matrix Sublimator is a perfect example of what Limburg has in mind with the Brightlands campuses: creating jobs by joining forces to develop innovative inventions for health care and launch them on the market. The official transfer of the Matrix Sublimator to HTX Imaging B.V. is nothing short of a new page in history that is being written at the Brightlands Maastricht Health Campus.

The Matrix Sublimator (see frame below for explanation) was developed on the basis of an idea of Prof. Dr. Ron Heeren, head of Mass Spectrometry Imaging at research institute M4I. M4I is a state-of-the-art institute for molecular imaging. Via Limburg Invests’ financing of its Knowledge Economy program, the Province of Limburg made major investments in 2015 to lure M4I to Maastricht. M4I’s focus also happens to be a perfect match for that of the Brightlands Maastricht Health Campus. 

What is the Matrix Sublimator and what does and can it do?

The Matrix Sublimator is an innovative research device that enables human tissue to be prepared for measurements in a mass spectrometer, among other things. With extreme precision, the Matrix Sublimator applies a thin layer of chemical powder to the tissue to be studied. After being supplied with energy by a laser, the molecules can leave the tissue more easily, whereupon they enter the mass spectrometer. This in turn substantially increases the quality and resolution of the measurements. During the next step, the molecules that have been released are weighed in the magnetic field of the mass spectrometer. The result is a spectrum, a type of graph, showing the quantity of molecules sorted by weight. A database made up of these measurements may be used in the future to determine whether the cells found in the tissue are healthy cells or cancer cells, for example.

Stronger together
The original idea was developed in a collaborative project between M4I, DSM Resolve BV and IDEE, the engineering department at Maastricht University. This partnership was initiated by Enabling Technologies BV and was made financially possible by the Province of Limburg. Ron Heeren worked closely with Maastricht Instruments on the continued development and completion of the Matrix Sublimator. Thanks to support from the Brightlands Health Campus, a patent application has even been submitted for the technology. After two trial installations in American laboratories, all of this resulted in the device that will now be launched on the market. 

New company
Run by the Frenchman Alain Creissen, the American HTX Imaging set up a new Dutch company specifically for this technology, which is based at the Brightlands Maastricht Health Campus. The initiators of this company, HTX Imaging BV, will remain involved in future developments and the devices will be produced in Limburg by AIM Brunssum BV. On December 11, 2018, Brightlands Maastricht Health Campus transferred the know-how and the patent to HTX Imaging BV last month, in exchange for royalties on every product sold. A few hundred Matrix Sublimators are expected to be launched on the market. 

Not just for research
Mass spectrometry technology is still primarily being used for research, but Prof. Dr. Ron Heeren is very interested in scaling this technology down and also using it in hospitals.