By winning its third German Business Innovation Award, Leica Microsystems has ultimately established its position at the cutting edge of German innovators.
On January 21st, President Dr. Wolf-Otto Reuter and Dr. Thomas Zapf, Director Scientific Relations, received the award in Frankfurt. The high-tech optical company wins the award in the medium-sized business category. The company already won the prestigious award in 1984 for the ELSAM acoustic microscope and again in 2002 for the DUV high-resolution microscope objective for photomask and wafer fabrication.
This time, the jury conferred the award for a high-resolution microscope with 4Pi technology: the Leica TCS 4PI. With this microscope, submicroscopically small structures in living cells and cell organelles can be imaged in 3D with clearer detail and more structural information than any other light microscope on the market. It provides basic research with a tool to find out new information on protein-based diseases. According to Zapf, it opens up completely new horizons for the diagnosis and therapy of malaria, Alzheimer's or AIDS, for example.
4Pi technology, which overcomes all the former barriers of light microscopy, was invented by Prof. Stefan Hell, Director of the Max Planck Institute of Biophysical Chemistry, and developed for the market by Leica Microsystems. The object of investigation is enclosed by two high-quality objectives arranged opposite each other. This means that the object can be observed with a practically complete spherical wave. This principle gives the microscope its name “4PI“ – with reference to the full solid angle. Applied to fluorescence microscopy, this leads to a 3 to 7 times narrower focus along the microscope axis. The result is a resolution of under 100 nanometers, a dimension where key life processes take place.
“We are proud to have won the Innovation Award of German Industry for the third time with the world's highest-resolution commercial fluorescence microscope, again demonstrating Leica Microsystems' innovation potential,“ said Reuter. “While we are naturally delighted to receive the award in recognition of our achievements, we are equally encouraged to see the progress that our customers are making in their research with our innovation.“ The microscope is being used at the universities of Heidelberg, Hanover, Muenster and Ulm as well as in the USA, UK, Spain and the Netherlands.