Driving optical imaging expertise and research

Representatives from KAUST and Leica Microsystems attend a virtual signing ceremony on April 28. Donal Bradley (left), KAUST vice president for research, and Mark Lusser, president of Leica Microsystems, renew their partnership in support of the KAUST-Leica Center of Excellence for Optical Microscopy. File photo.

KAUST and Leica Microsystems renewed their agreement to collaborate on technological advancement and educational outreach in the region. Since 2018, KAUST and Leica have worked together to establish the KAUST-Leica Center of Excellence for Optical Microscopy. This successful partnership has allowed KAUST to have early access to a suite of cutting-edge research microscopes from Leica, enabling it to build advanced in-house capabilities to conduct high-impact research.

A number of innovative studies by KAUST researchers have been published, in part, as a result of the partnership. These include a study on 3D-printed, minimally invasive microneedles for biomedical applications using Leica's LIGHTNING technology, which enables resolving structures down to 120 nm, and the discovery of climate adaptation in young date-palm trees using a combination of the same technology and molecular tools.

"KAUST and Leica Microsystems inaugurated the KAUST-Leica Center of Excellence for Optical Microscopy on the University's campus three years ago with the objective to collaborate on new scientific discoveries. We are honored to be a partner with KAUST and to have contributed to these achievements with our opto-digital innovations," said Markus Lusser, president of Leica Microsystems.

Center of Excellence for research and education

The Center of Excellence has supported further cooperation between KAUST and Leica by hosting joint technological forums for faculty and researchers, and sharing research trends and imaging technology roadmaps in the field. These forums have helped KAUST gain greater insight into future imaging technology trends and better align its imaging infrastructure with research needs.

KAUST and Leica have also partnered to perform outreach activities, such as hosting a series of workshops and seminars on optical microscopy and cryo-EM sample preparation, to help develop local and regional expertise in these technologies. Their outreach efforts have attracted participants from multiple Saudi universities and companies.

A researcher works in the KAUST-Leica Microsystems Center of Excellence, which is located in the University’s Core Laboratories. Photo by Basil Chew.

"The KAUST-Leica Center of Excellence is an ideal platform for collaborating in research and education with local and regional universities and research institutes. They receive first-hand knowledge of new techniques and hands-on training on advanced instrumentation, a unique opportunity for many researchers in the region," Wei Xu, team lead of the Optical Lab within the KAUST Core Labs, said.

Looking to the future

In addition to research and educational outreach, collaborations between regional universities and the KAUST-Leica Center of Excellence for Optical Microscopy are also on the horizon.

The renewal of the relationship between KAUST and Leica is a testament to the success of their partnership in technology advancement and outreach activities.

"This partnership has grown in a very positive direction, supporting KAUST to advance its research and education in optical microscopy. Together with Leica, KAUST will further strengthen its engagement with the research community in both Saudi Arabia and the region to continue building advanced expertise and capabilities in this field," said Professor Donal Bradley, KAUST vice president for research.