Lasers, Cows and the Twelve Million Dollar Woman

Group photo in a laboratory

Congratulations to Professor Cather Simpson, scientific founder of Engender Technologies and Orbis Diagnostics, for securing over $12.8 million of new science funding announced this week by Prime Minister Bill English and Science and Innovation Minister Paul Goldsmith.

Most of the funds are to support the development of ultra-fast laser manufacturing, the technology which underpins Engender and Orbis Diagnostics, as well as future innovations from Professor Simpson’s lab. Ultra-fast laser manufacturing allows for very fine, high-resolution microprocessing of a variety of materials.

It provides for extremely fine resolution when, for example, creating microfluidic channels, which combined with light pulses, enable Engender Technologies to sort X- and Y-bearing sperm, allowing for the breeding of selectively female or male cattle. The unique properties of ultra-fast laser manufacturing have also led to the creation of Orbis Diagnostics’ lab-on-a-chip, which uses a combination of microfluidics and photonics intended to quickly and accurately analyse milk samples for fat and protein content, progesterone and somatic cell count.

The grant funding investment is for excellent research that has high potential to positively transform New Zealand’s future. It is encouraging to see New Zealand focus such physics and engineering resources on technology that enables our primary industries to thrive by improving productivity, environmental sustainability, and animal welfare.