Great blog post from former FEI employee and current VP of the Prostate Cancer Foundation, Dan Zenka, on the impact of nano-enabling technologies in the treatment of metastatic prostate cancer.

Promise of Nanomedicine Advances

Highly-targeted nanomedicine for prostate cancer shows promising results that can revolutionize patient treatment.

Phase I trials of targeted nanoparticles carrying docetaxel show that these “Trojan horses” can deliver up to 10 times more docetaxel directly into cancerous cells while sparing healthy cells from the side effects of chemotherapy.

Several years ago, before my life with the Prostate Cancer Foundation, I worked with a leading company whose powerful scanning and transmission electron microscopes were opening the door to exploration and development on the nanoscale. Back then, I spoke avidly of once unimaginable advances in nano-enabled materials, nano-enabled electronics and nano-enabled life science.

Even then, I could appreciate what these advances were already yielding for my life in terms of such things as better paint finishes for my car, and faster performing and higher memory capacity components for my cell phone and desktop computer. But, just as I couldn’t have guessed I would one day become a patient with advanced prostate cancer, I couldn’t have imagined that the nano-enabled advances in biotech would one day yield something that would vastly improve my treatment if I become treatment resistant and the “wet blanket” of androgen deprivation therapy is no longer effective.

Today, scientists at the AACR meeting in Chicago released very promising results from a Phase I clinical trial using targeted nanoparticles filled with docetaxel, a chemotherapy agent that is effective in metastatic prostate cancer alone. It is currently delivered via infusions that floods the body and affects both cancerous and healthy cells, causing significant side effects at doses needed to improve patient survival. Using PSMA-targeted nanoparticles to deliver docetaxel, normal healthy cells are widely spared from undesirable side effects. Further, once these nanoscale “Trojan horses” identify their final destinations, they work directly into cancer cells releasing up to 10 times more docetaxel than is  delivered using current infusion methods. The idea to use targeted nanoparticles to deliver therapeutics was first conceived in 2002 and advanced rapidly by collaboration between PCF-supported teams at four cancer research centers.

There is also an added benefit to this research: other cancers also express PSMA, what I call the “sticky tape” that attracts these therapeutic-laden nanoparticles. With these findings, multiple Phase I and II trials targeting other cancers can be accelerated.

Of course, I remain optimistic that I will achieve my 40 percent chance of being declared “cancer-free” in a little more than three years from now. But, as a patient who is well aware of where this journey might one day take me, I find today’s news especially encouraging for me and so many others. It’s a big “score” for both patients and for the world’s nano-enablers and scientists.

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Highly Advanced Transmission Electron Microscope From FEI Inaugurated at the Ernst Ruska-Centre in Germany

Highly Advanced Transmission Electron Microscope from FEI Inaugurated at the Ernst Ruska-Centre in Germany

 

The Ernst Ruska-Centre has reached a record resolution of 50 picometers (one billionth of a millimeter), which allows scientists to resolve atomic structures to unprecedented levels

Hillsboro, Ore./February 29, 2012―FEI (NASDAQ: FEIC), a leading instrumentation company providing imaging and analysis systems for research and industry, today announced that a highly advanced microscope has been inaugurated at the Ernst Ruska-Centre (ER-C) in Jülich, Germany. This microscope was funded by the Ernst Ruska-Centre’s “PICO” project, and is based on FEI’s Titan3™ G2 60-300 scanning transmission electron microscope (S/TEM). It is one of only two of its kind in the world and the first one in Europe with chromatic aberration correction (CC).

The Advanced Picometre Resolution Project (PICO) is a joint development project between FEI, CEOS and the Ernst Ruska-Centre focused on building a microscope that pushes the envelope of the physical limits of electron optics. This technology will enable academic and industrial researchers to explore new frontiers in materials science for energy and information technology in order to better understand the relationship between the atomic structure, physical properties and potential applications. The sophisticated computer modeling methods developed by the ER-C scientists allows for unprecedented resolution of 50 picometers for materials science applications.

 “The ER-C’s achievement of 50 picometer resolution is the pinnacle of performance in the world of microscopy,” stated Trisha Rice, vice president and general manager of FEI’s Materials Science Business Unit. “As a leading solution provider, we are proud to supply this special Titan system to the ER-C as a major milestone in technology and enabler for potential new, exciting discoveries. It will allow for new insights in the fields of nanotechnology, solid state physics and materials science and the potential development of faster, more energy-efficient, and more reliable devices, materials and nanostructures.”

The ER-C received approximately $20 million (USD) in funding for the project (covering the cost of the PICO system, additional analytical equipment, and new building expenses) from the Federal State, the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, the German Research Foundation, and the Helmholtz Association.

 The PICO system is based on FEI’s Titan3 G2 60-300 (S/TEM) platform. A chromatic aberration corrector has been added to improve resolution and precision, giving the system the capability to measure interatomic distances and atom displacements with a precision of five picometers to only one picometer. The PICO system also incorporates aberration-corrected electron optics developed in the 1990s by scientists at the EMBL Heidelberg, CEOS, the Technical University of Darmstadt and Forschungszentrum Jülich.

Major engineering achievements in the system include: integration of CC corrector technology; mastering the challenge of the 80 cm Ccorrector module mechanics; the embedding of the user-friendly software; and the provision of the full flexibility of the 60 kV to 300 kV range of acceleration voltage.

Rice adds, “FEI has had a close collaboration with the ER-C for many years now, and in fact, the world’s first available electron microscope was built with spherical aberration correction in Jülich on an FEI TEM.”

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FEI ChemiSTEM technology has been awarded the 2012 Readers’ Choice Award from LABORATORY EQUIPMENT magazine.

ChemiSTEM Technology Provides Higher X-Ray Count Rate

Technology Provides Higher X-Ray Count Rate

Information on the chemical composition of materials on the nanoscale is pivotal for an understanding of nanostructures and devices, and X-ray spectrometry is a well-established, robust and easy to use technique to obtain this information. Better yet, in the Scanning/Transmission Electron Microscope (S/TEM), X-ray analysis pairs microstructural information obtained from high-resolution imaging with accurate chemical composition information. But there has been an historical limitation with X-ray systems for the S/TEM: they collect only about 1% of all X-rays generated by the electron beam passing through the very thin sample. Recently, as the desired spatial resolution of chemical analysis has become progressively greater, the X-ray signal has decreased because of fewer atoms excited in smaller analytical volumes (a consequence of smaller electron beams and thinner samples). This results in low signal strength, bringing about low sensitivity and hence long analysis times – until now. 

ChemiSTEM technology overcomes the limitations of conventional energy dispersive X-ray (EDX) analysis to deliver enhanced performance improvements:

Speed- Increases in X-ray count rates of 50x or more translate directly into faster maps and analyses. Maps that took hours to acquire now take only minutes.

Sensitivity- Higher X-ray count rate can be used to enable detection of low elemental concentrations. The technology has detected elemental concentrations as low as a few hundredths of a percentage weight in specific applications

Light Elements– FEI’s proprietary windowless detector design has proven to be not only beneficial for enhancing light element detection sensitivity, but also in the detection sensitivity of all elements

ChemiSTEM Technology combines technical advances in beam generation with disruptive changes in EDX signal detection. The system comprises proprietary X-FEG high-brightness electron source, proprietary patent pending Super-X detector system consisting of 4 windowless SDD detectors integrated close to the saltmple area, and fast electronics capable of EDX spectral rates of up to 100,000 spectra/sec.

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FEI Reports Record Revenue and EPS for the Fourth Quarter and 2011

FEI Company (Nasdaq:FEIC) reported record revenue and earnings for 2011 and for the fourth quarter. Revenue and earnings per share computed on the basis of accounting principles generally accepted in the United States (“GAAP”) were the highest of any quarter in the company’s history. Several items had an impact on the fourth quarter GAAP results, as detailed below and in the attached table.

Fourth quarter revenue of $213.0 million was up 14% compared to $186.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2010 and up 4% from $205.3 million in the third quarter of 2011.

The gross margin in the fourth quarter was 44.4%, compared with 45.0% in the fourth quarter of 2010 and equal to the third quarter of 2011.

GAAP net income was $29.1 million or $0.72 per diluted share, compared with $21.3 million or $0.52 per diluted share in the fourth quarter of 2010 and $26.2 million or $0.63 per diluted share in the third quarter of 2011. The fourth quarter of 2011 includes a net tax benefit of $7.8 million, which includes a cumulative benefit of $12.4 million due to the Netherlands Tax Authority’s approval of FEI’s use of the “Innovation Box” for a portion of its Dutch taxable income. The benefit of the Innovation Box extends into 2012 and later years and lowers the company’s estimated overall effective tax rate to approximately 22%. In addition, the company incurred charges to operating expenses of $5.3 million related to certain patent litigation matters, a $2.1 million charge for early termination of a contract, and $1.4 million for impairment of an intangible asset. Adjusting for the tax benefit and the previously mentioned charges and applying an appropriate tax rate results in non-GAAP net income of $25.4 million and non-GAAP diluted earnings per share of $0.63 for the quarter. A reconciliation of these charges and benefits along with their impact on net income and earnings per share is included in a table attached to this press release, along with detailed GAAP statements of operations, balance sheets and additional supplementary information. Management’s reasons for presenting non-GAAP information are outlined later in this release.

For the fourth quarter of 2011, gross bookings were $212.0 million. Net bookings were $203.6 million after reduction of the ending backlog due to currency movements. Net bookings were $218.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2010 and $186.4 million in the third quarter of 2011. The backlog at the end of the quarter was $430.7 million.

For the full year 2011, revenue was $826.4 million, an all-time record for the company and up 30% from $634.2 million in 2010. Net income was $103.6 million or $2.51 per diluted share, nearly double the $53.5 million or $1.34 per diluted share posted for 2010. Gross margin for the year increased to 44.5% from 42.5% in 2010.

Total cash, investments and restricted cash at the end of the quarter was $456.1 million, an increase of $20.4 million from the end of the third quarter. Total cash, investments and restricted cash increased $32.3 million during the year, after the repurchase of $50 million of the company’s common stock and $14.1 million for the acquisition of TILL Photonics.

“A strong fourth quarter completed a transformational year for FEI,” commented Don Kania, president and CEO. “Revenue grew by over 30%, margins improved, we increased R&D spending for future growth, earnings nearly doubled and cash flow from operating activities was over $100 million. We have also taken important steps in the execution of our growth strategy by acquiring companies strategic to our high-growth Life Sciences and Natural Resources businesses, and the announcement of two important collaborations for biology research with NIH and the Knight Cancer Center at Oregon Health Sciences University. Our market position and product lines are strong, and we expect 2012 to be another growth year for FEI.”

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FEI Launches New Core-to-Pore Imaging Workflow for Shale Gas Reservoirs

 

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Check out the CCEM Summer School on Electron Microscopy, June 11-15 at McMaster University in Hamilton, ON, Canada.

 

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New Osiris TEM with ChemiSTEM technology installed at Yale University.

Yale’s new microscope brings atoms’ identities into focus

Yale’s newest transmission electron microscope can provide clear images of objects as small as 0.2 nanometers — less than 1/100,000th the width of a human hair — and identify the specific atoms and molecules in samples. (Photo by Michael Marsland)

Yale’s acquisition of a powerful new transmission electron microscope (TEM) is expected to transform researchers’ ability to examine and manipulate atom-scale materials and devices on campus.

The approximately $2 million, state-of-the-art microscope offers atomic resolution for both physical structure and chemical composition, as well as significantly faster processing times than other devices on campus. It is the first unit of this specific TEM model acquired for university laboratory use.

Housed at the Yale Institute for Nanoscience and Quantum Engineering, (YINQE) the microscope can provide clear images of objects as small as 0.2 nanometers — less than 1/100,000th the width of a human hair — and also identify the specific atoms and molecules in samples.

The device is expected to be especially helpful to researchers in engineering, applied physics, chemistry, and geology and geoscience, and to serve as an important tool for advances in quantum computing, energy and sustainability research, and nearly all aspects of materials science.

“Our most recent acquisition of a powerful and versatile transmission electron microscope puts at the disposal of hundreds of Yale researchers capabilities formerly unavailable within a hundred miles of this campus,” said Paul Fleury, a professor of applied physics who is the institute’s director. “Thanks to substantial and sustained support from the Yale Provost’s Office, and the outstanding leadership of YINQE’s facilities director, Michael Rooks, the laboratory now provides a full suite of state-of-the-art characterization facilities.”

The institute, established in 2006 and located at the Malone Engineering Center, fosters collaboration among scientists in various disciplines who work on nano-scale research projects.

“When constructing structures on the nanometer scale, it is essential be able to see what one is doing,” said Steve Girvin, deputy provost for science and technology and a professor of physics and applied physics. “This instrument provides that capability, not only producing images of the atomic structure but also providing valuable information on local chemical composition at each point in the image.”

Yale has other transmission electron microscopes, including a relatively new one at the School of Medicine, but these are tailored for examining soft-tissues and other samples containing water. YINQE’s new microscope is configured for examining natural and fabricated hard materials, such as crystals, semiconductors and carbon nanotubes.

The new TEM also conducts chemical analysis more efficiently — about 10 times faster than the medical school TEMs, according to Rooks, who holds a 1987 Yale Ph.D. in applied physics.

“If you grow a crystal and the elements have reconfigured in a bad way, you’d like to be able to see that,” he said.

Installed last fall, the microscope is now in use by a small number of researchers previously familiar with its operation. Rooks, who oversees YINQE’s research equipment, said institute personnel will train on the new machine early this year and quickly turn to training additional interested researchers. Like other instruments in the YINQE laboratory, the TEM will be available to any qualified researcher at an hourly fee.

“The arrival of the new TEM will greatly enhance our research,” said Lisa Pfefferle, a professor of chemical engineering whose lab designs new nanomaterials for energy, electronic, and biological applications. “Before we had no way of measuring elemental composition on this length scale.”

Gayatri Keskar, a postdoctoral student in Pfefferle’s lab, said the new microscope is easy to use and fast, reducing the time necessary for mapping a sample’s elements “from hours to minutes or seconds,, compared to standard solutions.”

The new microscope is an Osirus ChemiSTEM model from FEI Co., the Oregon-based scientific instruments maker that also provided the medical school’s newest TEM. Configured with both a high-sensitivity x-ray detector and an electron energy loss spectrometer, enabling it to detect a wide range of elements, the device is also equipped with a 200 kV electron source. A TEM relies on electron beams fired through the sample under scrutiny to generate magnified images.

While the new TEM is not the only microscope at Yale with atomic-level resolution, it is the most efficient at elemental analysis.

The new TEM is housed in a 13-by-18-foot, soundproof enclosure within YINQE’s multi-room lab, a glance away from the institute’s electron-beam writing instrument and the high-resolution scanning electron microscope. The location was considered ideal for the new microscope, both because of the device’s numerous engineering applications and because the extra thick floor of the Malone Center’s basement offers stability. Minimizing vibration is essential, given the machine’s sensitivity.

Said Rooks, “If you talk too loudly, you can see your voice moving the image around.”

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