The NanoTemper Story – Chapter 5: The Dianthus

August 25, 2020 Stefanie Kall

Dianthus

Almost as soon as the Monolith launched, the handful of people that made up NanoTemper in those early days huddled around, brainstorming how to translate the technology into a well-based assay. Capillaries were perfect for allowing the finely tuned measurements necessary for MST, but researchers like what they’re familiar with, and most of them, from crystallographers to cell biologists, worked with well-based plates.

Adapting a technology to a completely different vessel is no easy task. Ten years after its inception, NanoTemper was a much larger company than it had been when they first started brainstorming how to adapt MST technology. For NanoTemper’s 10th anniversary, we gathered in Lisbon to hear the official news of the launch of a new instrument for finding hits that bind biologically relevant targets The Dianthus.

 

A small change with a big impact

By 2018, the Monolith had come a long way since it was a black box in the basement of LMU. Numerous optical enhancements, software upgrades, and an ever-expanding body of literature was helping it catch on in research labs throughout the world. However, PIs and lab directors repeatedly came back to the same question: can this be done in plates?

Most scientists are familiar with working in plates for one assay or another. Crystal trays, ELISAs, and cell culture are all done in plates with standard-sized wells. For labs looking to do large-scale hit discovery, being able to quickly adapt other plate-based assays to MST technology was important. However, translating MST technology from capillaries to wells was a challenging prospect. It took several years and many hands to make it work. But in the end, NanoTemper developed a new instrument that could measure 384 data points in less than an hour. This massively increased the throughput available to researchers who rely on MST for measuring the strength of biological interactions.

 

Hunting for the right name

While the Dianthus was in development, its codename was Watson. This was a reference to the sidekick of the famous detective Sherlock Holmes. Just as the Dianthus was built to help researchers uncover hidden targets, Watson helped Holmes on his search for clues. Of course, a certain large technology company had already famously produced advanced AI called Watson, and we wanted to find a name that better fit in with the other instruments.


“We noticed all our instruments were named for men and thought we should try to find some female names that fit with our theme.” -Philipp Baaske


Trying to keep with the themes of discovery, Greek history, and sci-fi, Philipp and Stefan thought of the goddess of the hunt, Artemis. The theory was that scientists are “hunting” for the best drug candidates. Unfortunately, that’s another name that has been used for products in a variety of businesses. Her Roman name, Diana, is still in use today, which makes it difficult to evoke a unique feeling associated with NanoTemper’s new instrument.

Development continued as we struggled to find a name. Until one day our CEO Stefan Duhr was driving along a busy road. A truck in front of him came to a sudden halt, and he had to slam on the brakes to avoid crashing into it. When he looked up, he saw the truck was for a local flower delivery service company called Dianthus. He quickly looked up what that meant, and found it was the name of a flower.

 

dianthus flower
Dianthus chinesis or a rainbow pink flower. Dianthus is a genus that covers almost 300 species of flowers. Source: Jjw / CC BY-SA

 

Not only did Dianthus capture Stefan’s love of nature, but it sounded a little bit like Diana (to tie in with the hunting theme) and with the “-us” ending sounded like a relative of the Prometheus. It was a perfect fit for the new well-based screening technology they had spent years perfecting.


“It just goes to show, you can think really hard about how to name something, but sometimes you just have to let it come to you. Stay open-minded to the world and don’t over-rationalize things.”              -Stefan Duhr


Dianthus was also given the designation “NT.23.” Like the 115 of the Monolith or the 48 of Prometheus, this is related to the number of samples it can run. Wells in plates, whether they are 24- 96- or 384- are always in a 2×3 array. While designing the Dianthus, we stuck with 384 wells for development; but who can say what the future holds?

The Dianthus is by no means the last instrument NanoTemper will make. As we grow as a company and expand into new markets, we aim to make high-quality instruments that have an immediate impact on research. We strive to combine internal R&D and customer feedback to push the limits of what is possible for biological and biotherapeutic research. Stay tuned for the next chapter in the NanoTemper story.

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