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High Throughput Experimentation Sealing Technology

May 6, 2022

The ETC is seeking proposals from companies to develop a reaction plate sealing technology to enable high throughput experimentation without loss of solvent after sampling.  Current sealing materials are prone to losing solvent after piercing and/or swelling from being incompatible and loss of solvent effects parameters being studied including rates of reaction and solubility.  The project is not limited to new compatible materials but includes new mechanisms of sampling.  The sealing technology could be either a new piece of hardware (like a mechanical gate), a new piece of hardware that has a consumable part (a new device with a polymeric seal) or just a consumable part (like a mat material). 

Download the Request for Proposals and submit your response.

RFI ISSUED:  May 6, 2022

QUESTIONS on RFI DUE to ETC:  May 31, 2022

RFI RESPONSES DUE to ETC:  Deadline Extended to August 1, 2022

Q&A Received:  


Section 2.3.1

  1. Compatibility with velocity limits to limit current overloads.  Can we be provided this limit in grams? 

    • Difficult to define a mechanical limit during needle piercing and withdrawing is different for each automation equipment and configuration.  Anything we develop needs to be automation friendly.  We can provide feedback during testing of materials.

  2. Make seals with some variation in consistency of vial height and imperfections.  Can a mechanical height tolerance of the vials be defined here? 

    • We do not have variation quantified, but the typical variation of commercially available vials which have been inspected to visual consistency.  We expect this to be <1mm variation on a 30 mm vial.

  3. Does providing a solution that fits the ANSI SBS/SLAS geometry standards meet the “generally applicable with platforms and equipment” requirement?

    • Yes

  4. Are there high and low working-temperature requirements for the project? 

    • -40 to 120 °C, It is possible to have different materials for the high and low ranges. Solvent should have compatibility with THF, TBME< DCM, Acetone, Toluene. 

  5. Can solutions include multiple different materials targeting the solvent compatibility requirements? That is to say, would 5 different versions of the sealing technology be acceptable (given that there are 5 different solvents named on the RFP)? Each of the 5 different versions being comprised of equal geometry but unequal material. 

    • It would be best to have one material which is compatible with all solvents, but it would also be acceptable to have multiple materials.

  6. Swelling - Can this be defined in mechanical terms?

    • We have not defined. We do not want the distortion to interfere with the sealing or sampling capability.  We can provide feedback during testing of materials.


Section 2.3.3

  1. Vendor support is expected for a reasonable life of the product. Is 5 years acceptable? 

    • The eventual solution should be available for at least 10 years.  After completion of the project, 5 years of support is acceptable.


Section 5.4

  1. When partnering with a commercial vendor, monetary resources should be supplemental to the total development costs. Is there a suggested ratio here?

    • There is no set ratio for ETC funding relative to collaborator funding.  The funding provided by ETC to a commercial vendor should be considered seed funding to supplement the total development costs.  It is up to the 3rd party collaborator to determine how much funding to seek from ETC.  Historically ETC funding has been in the $0 - $400,000 range spread over 1-3 yrs. but there is no hard limit on the amount of funding


General Questions:

  1. If we accept outside funding resources for the project, and the project ultimately fails, are there any repercussions? Failure being defined as:

    1. Solution does not meet all goals

    2. Solution does not meet specific goals

    3. Solution not delivered by expected date​​

      • Projects executed with ETC are fixed fee projects with payments based upon successful completion of milestones.  For projects lasting more than 12 months, ETC typically builds in go/no-go decision steps at points agreed upon by ETC and the 3rd party collaborator to make sure sufficient progress is being made towards successful completion completion.  If timelines slip, ETC is able to execute no-cost extensions to extend the project end date to allow for completion so we typically wouldn't define a delay as a failure if the project ultimately completes all of the galls successfully.  However, even if a project fails to deliver some or all of the goals, ETC recognizes that with the development of new technology sometimes not everything can be achieved or delivered as originally intended at the start of the project.  If a solution does not meet some or all goals any repercussions would be pre-defined in the Statement of Work and Development agreement made with the 3rd party collaborator (e.g., milestone-based payments and go/no-go decision points mentioned above).  The team is flexible and will work with the 3rd party to adjust the SOW deliverables via a change order process or break the project up into logical parts through multiple SOWs which can be executed in series to manage risk.

  2. Would our subcontractors need to be named on the RFP or would those subcontractor names need to be  made public at any time during the process?

    • No, you do not need to name the subcontractors nor would their identity need to be made public. However, while not made public, ETC may wish to know the identities as part of the evaluation of the SOW/project proposal.  Note, it will be the responsibility of the 3rd party that contracts with ETC on a project to manage any subcontractors they work with on the project. 

  3. Can our engineering time be funded by the ETC? Would this cover a new hire? If there are any specifics or use-case examples, please provide.

    • You can proposed any type of funding model or budget you wish. Previous projects conducted by ETC have provided funding that have gone to particular positions within the 3rd party's organization, supplies, equipment, etc.  

  4. Please provide specifics or use-case examples if the product becomes worthy of entering the patent space. Are we free to patent? Would there be any restrictions? 

    • Yes, in most cases you are free to patent without restriction.  All commercialization rights will reside with the collaborator and ETC will not assume ownership of any intellectual property (IP) developed by the collaborator or expect royalties from future commercial sales.  ETC doesn't wish to retain any new IP related to the project to give the 3rd party the most freedom to commercialize a solution.

  1. Section 2.3.1 mentions “temperatures near the solvents boiling points.”  Can you clarify what this means?  For example, does this mean 5 degrees below the BP, 5 degrees above the BP, or something else?

    • Near the boiling point refers to 5°C below the boiling point

  2. Section 5.4:  Is there a target or maximum level of funding that the ETC members would contribute to this project?  

    • It is up to the 3rd party collaborator to determine how much funding to seek from ETC. Historically ETC funding has been in the $0 - $400,000 range spread over 1-3 yrs. but there is no hard limit on the amount of funding

  3. The RFP describes that the solution should not be tied to a specific manufacturer’s equipment. While our solution would not be functionally restricted to use with our specific equipment, our business focus may limit us to only being able to sell our technology to customers who use our instruments. Can you confirm if an RFP response would be acceptable if we can only make the solution available to users of our instruments?

    •  All RFP responses are acceptable and if any respondent wishes to limit availability of their proposed solution to existing customers, from the perspective of ETC, we cannot and will not dictate to whom a collaborator can or cannot sell their products and services. So if your company wishes to restrict who you sell the solution to that is your business decision alone.  However, as you pointed out, the RFP states as a requirement that "in general, the solution should be generally applicable with platforms and equipment and not tied to a specific manufacturer’s equipment in order to allow for widespread integration across platforms from various manufacturers" so this is one of the requirements along with the others stated in the RFP the team will be evaluating/scoring the responses against.

  4. The RFP scope is very broad, mentioning new hardware/sealing mechanisms, new hardware using consumable parts, and simple mat materials. I expect these would vary widely in cost and complexity, and I am curious if the RFP would potentially select a single proposal to support, or if there is interest in multiple of these approaches. Our company's technology would best fit into the category of “a new piece of hardware that has a consumable part,” so we are determining if our proposal would have a realistic chance of being supported, particularly when compared to something more straightforward, such as a new mat material.

    • ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Currently this is unknown without seeing the responses and the team prioritizing the strategies outlined in the proposals.  ETC in the past has supported multiple proposals that took different approaches to deliver a solution.

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