SPARTA® (Single Particle Automated Raman Trapping Analysis) is a novel platform technology developed by the Stevens Group at Imperial College London to address the need for better analytical tools for nanoformulations. Nanoformulations are nanoparticles in various shapes and forms, from lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) used for instance in some COVID-19 vaccines to viral vectors for gene therapy and liposomes for novel cancer therapies. SPARTA® is a benchtop machine able to analyse individual nanoparticles in an automated and label-free fashion and obtains a chemical fingerprint which can be used to verify the composition, size and functionality of these particles. The RSE team worked with Dr. Jelle Penders and Dr. Srikanth Ravipati in the Department of Materials to bring together the code and scripts from the group into a robust software to control the SPARTA® machine, dubbed SPARTA Control.
The RSE team assisted initially with scoping out the functionalities of the software and mapping out the interactions with the existing and next-iteration of the hardware, which was simultaneously being developed. The RSE team based the new SPARTA® Control software on code and scripts written previously and converted these routines to Python, developed from the ground up an accessible and user-friendly graphical interface and implemented software engineering best-practices to create a robust framework for future expansion.
The project proved challenging as delays and manufacturing issues with the hardware prototyping, in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, complicated testing of the software. However once these issues were resolved the project was completed following several coding sprints and the software constituted many improvements to the workflow and ease of use, as evidence by user-feedback that was received. The SPARTA® platform technology, including the developed software was subsequently licenced for further commercial development to the new Imperial spin-out company SPARTA Biodiscovery.
Prof Molly Stevens FREng FRS, Professor of Biomedical Materials and Regenerative Medicine and the Research Director for Biomedical Material Sciences in the Department of Materials, Department of Bioengineering and the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at Imperial College London, co-inventor of SPARTA® and co-founder of SPARTA Biodiscovery:
"The RSE team provided a key piece of expertise that allowed us to bring the SPARTA® technology to the next level, ready for commercialisation through our new spin-out company. The team was highly professional in their approach and very flexible with working around our hardware challenges. They also took the time to educate our team around software best practices and research software design which was greatly appreciated."
Python, Instrument software, Hardware interaction, Nanoformulations, Spectroscopy.