If you are looking to invest in a new electrophysiology and imaging rig for your lab, our Bespoke Rig Design service may be just what you need.
Please read how our service is unique on the market, by clicking on this link. If you are interested in reading more on how this solution would be implemented, please read through our hypothetical case study.
Frequently Asked Questions
MCI’s Bespoke Rig Design service - what is it?
At MCI, our job is to stay on top of the latest developments in the neurotech space.
We explore and evaluate instrument technology from many developers, and we use this knowledge to your advantage when you need to build a new electrophysiology and imaging setup.
As we don’t sell 3rd party instruments, we can be impartial and recommend devices without being bound by distribution partnerships or special arrangements.
After a consultation with us, you place an order with the selected suppliers and we handle the installation, integration and testing of the new rig.
You benefit by having a setup which is:
- Ready to produce quality data. We work with you to design and cost-up a rig that will work for your needs. During installation we de-noise the rig, and perform optical alignment and drift tests to ensure you can get data (see our “key guarantees”).
- Functionally optimized and Customized to your needs. Our informed, impartial advice means we can recommend the best tools for your job. Unlike other companies that only offer their preferred supplier components.
- Cost effective. We are independent from suppliers, and will therefore not recommend something just because we receive commissions from it. We can also negotiate with suppliers on your behalf, ensuring you get the best set-up at the best price. And with potential DIY and Hybrid-DIY integrations (see “Can I incorporate DIY or Hybrid-DIY components? ” in the FAQs), you can have further savings. We also actively promote, and in some instances offer client support, for freeware packages. Further to these points, by having our applications team install the rig and perform our exhaustive checks, we guarantee to save you time and therefore money.
- Cutting edge. One of our main priorities is to stay up to date with the latest neuro tech advancements. We can even help you to incorporate a self-built component, or a component that is not yet being marketed actively.
- Time-saving. All of the above points equate to massive time-saving that frees you up to get on with your research.
Why use MCI's Bespoke Rig Design service?
MCI-Neuroscience have a combined experience of over 65 years in the field of electrophysiology and imaging, and we actively research the most recent developments in the neurotechnology field.
We understand the needs of experienced neuroscientists who want a rig that is going to help them accomplish their research goals and future-proof their science for the next 10-15 years.
We rely almost exclusively on customer recommendations for marketing purposes, making customer satisfaction paramount and thus ensuring that you will receive superb customer service.
What is included in the Bespoke Rig Design service?
To enable us to offer this service and to confidently offer the key guarantees, the package always includes:
How does MCI’s Bespoke Rig Design Service work?
Initial Consultation. If our service is a good match for you, we’ll start with an initial consultation, which is free of charge (this may happen before the grant application stage).
We discuss your preferences, project plans and potential challenges in depth.
If we’re a good match, we’ll provide you with a shopping list of components based on your goals.
We’ll include a quote for the CleverExplore system, and estimated cost for consultation, installation, integration and service. And we also offer the option of gathering quotations on your behalf.
Ordering. When you’re funded, and after you have committed to work with us. We will renew the quotes, and offer the option of negotiating a best price from suppliers on your behalf. Your orders are placed directly with the manufacturers.
Logistics, Installation and Testing. We liaise with the suppliers to synchronize delivery. After delivery, an MCI application scientist will visit your lab to install and test the set up (see “key guarantees” below).
Evaluation. We’ll do an evaluation every second month for the first twelve months after installation. This is to make sure the performance on your setup is optimized.
This is usually done remotely, and will require some feedback from the main user.
It includes a full 360 degree evaluation of system performance against expectations.
How is MCI's Bespoke Rig Design different to that which other suppliers offer?
At the moment there are two general approaches to follow when investing in a new rig:
You deal with several suppliers, all competing for your business. Making the correct choices here relies largely on:
- your thoroughness in vetting different technologies
- the effort you make during the communication process
- your previous experience with specific technologies
- possible references and recommendations from peers
You are bound to communicate with several suppliers and handle lots of administration to obtain quotes and to synchronize delivery and installation times.
In following this approach, any potential issues with integration of components from the different suppliers should be kept in mind and compatibility thoroughly researched prior to purchases.
You purchase from a system integration company who manufactures some of the components, but who also acts as a distribution partner for other developers in ultimately offering a complete solution.
Some benefits of this approach are:
- The convenience of the integration company handling the installation and integration, reducing the risk of any incompatibilities
- The integration company will handle most communication with suppliers. This means that you don’t have to spend lots of time on all the supplier communication threads or take responsibility for the integration and compatibility of components
Nevertheless, you will have limited equipment options due to the integration company’s partnerships with specific suppliers. Additionally, the integration company will receive a reseller discount on every item on your list. This could impact on value for money and the suitability of specific components for your experimental design.
Alternative Approach – the MCI Bespoke Rig Design
MCI’s approach is more service-focused instead of the main emphasis being on the products.
Our applications team and network of scouts constantly search for and evaluate the existing and emerging technologies in the field. This search even includes open-source, and DIY components, as well as pre-owned and/or ex-demo components. Armed with this knowledge, we go through a careful process with you in order to understand your project requirements in detail.
Following this conversation and a discussion of available component options, we supply you with a list of quotes (direct from manufacturers) for you to evaluate and order a setup which is best suited to your needs.
This is because:
- You will not be restricted to an integration company’s limited supplier-distributor networks
- We have a systematic way of evaluating various technologies from a neuroscientist’s perspective
- We are the only neurotech company who stays informed about and will actively promote and integrate open-source and DIY hardware and software, freeware and pre-owned or ex-demo equipment
- You will place orders directly with different suppliers, but we are able to handle price negotiations on your behalf. This will be like having a personal procurement team at your disposal
- We will do all logistics arrangements in obtaining quotes and in terms of synchronizing delivery
- We will also handle the final installation, integration and training on the complete rig
- After installation, we guarantee some key outcomes, including a setup optimized to have acceptable stability and low electrical noise, with optics aligned optimally for best imaging quality
- We will further implement a follow-up program with you, wherein we schedule regular evaluations and optimization sessions for your setup, with the assistance of other technology partners, where applicable
The outcome of MCI’s approach is the ultimate rig for accomplishing your research goals. You will save time and money, enabling you to produce quality data sooner. Our reward is in assuring your future in research.
MCI, with Neuroscientists – from Application to Publication
Bespoke Rig Design - Hypothetical Case Study
The following hypothetical case study intends to demonstrate different ways in which the Bespoke Rig Design can add value to your research. It is not intended to be a typical case, but rather to prove the concept, and elaborate on different scenarios which may be of interest.
Step 1 – Initial contact
A UCLA-based neuroscientist, Dr Y, contacted us to discuss the possibility of investing in a new setup for their lab. She recently moved from Oxford University and received start-up funding to refurbish her lab space. Dr Y needs to set up a workstation to do optical and electrical stimulation and recording in mouse hippocampal slices. She also plans on investigating neurotransmitter activity by focal application of various compounds.
Step 2 – Initial consultation
The initial consultation included a conversation with Dr Y about:
- what the experimental plans are
- which parts she is particularly concerned about
- what equipment she already has in the lab
- what equipment she is very much inflexible on as far as alternatives are concerned
- what her ideal budget is
- what her expected timeline is
- which personnel in the lab will be using which equipment
- how open she is to considering DIY options, pre-owned and ex-demo equipment
Step 3 – Needs analysis
Following on the conversation, MCI prepared an initial report based on the following input criteria:
- It would be useful for Dr Y to get support and advice on the complete electrophysiology environment, including some consumables and tools which are not directly part of the rig. We can supply a list of components (down to details like a soldering iron, connectors, cables and manifolds to get her started). We further propose some cost-effective alternatives to source these components from
- She has experience with the MultiClamp 700B amplifiers from Molecular Devices. A departmental colleague will not be using his amplifier for the foreseeable future. He would be happy to lend her his amplifier, therefore, she won’t have to buy a new one at this stage
- She would need spatial control over the illumination for activation of Channelrhodopsin in certain cell bodies in slice
- She would benefit from having the illumination, electrical stimulation and electrical recordings synchronized, with the electrical recording data traces and protocol acting as the master
- Another aspect of the project would be to do electrical recordings from visual cortex in vivo, with the mouse on a treadmill. She would like to have flexibility with the treadmill, and would benefit from building it herself, in order to make the required alterations
- In the past, she had long-standing issues with electrical noise, which caused a lot of down-time with her previous project
- She is very concerned about her limited budget, and would consider pre-owned, ex-demo and/or DIY options as a means of cost saving
- She might need to complete a call for tenders if the total amount for the full rig exceeds the $60k threshold
- If the total amount is under the $60k tender threshold, she would need to get three competitive quotes on all components valued over the $10k threshold, unless specific motivation documentation is supplied
Step 4 – Initial Proposal
MCI proposes the following approach, that Dr Y may consider before committing to work with us or not:
- We provide an estimated cost of buying all new components
- We propose to supply a bill of materials that can be used to build a micro-injection dispense system. We could handle assembly in order to further save on cost. Total cost, including assembly by MCI, would save approximately xxx USD
- We suggest a material sciences LED to be used in combination with a commercially available spatial illuminator (instead of a DIY solution, which will offer more challenges with the electrophysiology synchronization). The material sciences LED, combined with some lenses available, provides an option with higher power output at a lower price, compared to commercially available solutions intended for life science applications. MCI can provide full training on these components
- We suggest an analog-to-digital converter, combined with a freeware for electrophysiology recordings and control. The software will be flexible for complete synchronization, and MCI could potentially arrange for an experienced lab to provide full software training
- We offer some guidance at this point as to how this solution compares against others
- We recommend a pipette puller and vibratome from two lesser-known, smaller companies. Both provide excellent value for money, with a saving of approximately xxx USD. We also provide some alternatives, with approximate costs. Dr Y asked for references on these components, which we provide
- For multi-channel perfusion, we provide a bill of materials and instructions for easy self-assembly. We could also handle assembly if required
- We supply a bill of materials for the treadmill, with assembly instructions, together with contact details for another lab experienced with this equipment for further advice
- In the meantime, we crossed paths with Dr Z in another lab who would be happy to sell his objectives at a quarter of the cost when new. MCI can act as the broker for this deal, wherein the UCLA lab will pay us, and we will pay the seller. MCI will also evaluate the objectives before the closing of the deal, to ensure the parts are in good condition
- We provide an approximate cost on all the above options and alternatives, demonstrating the potential cost saving. The initial quote also includes MCI services such as consulting, assembly, integration and installation fees
- At this stage, it seems as if the complete setup is close to the $60k threshold. We discuss the best way to structure the call for tender (that needs to be defined in such a way that multiple suppliers are able to contribute), in order to make the process as easy as possible for Dr Y, who has limited time for preparing the documentation
- MCI further suggests some alternative companies for any items over the $10k threshold, in order to prevent the requirement for a call for tenders. We further offer to contact these companies on her behalf.
- All quotations received from suppliers will be sent directly to her for evaluating
Step 5 – Initial Agreement
Dr Y agrees to continue the process with MCI at this point. Before we send out more detailed information related to the above proposal, we provide an opt-out agreement.
If, after the next step, Dr Y decides not to work directly with MCI, a consulting fee up to this point will be charged. This agreement includes a quote for the consulting fee. Part of the agreement is to define where we are given permission to discuss quotations with other suppliers on her behalf.
Step 6 – Detailed Proposal and Pricing
Once the agreement is signed, the next step in information exchange includes the following:
- We send a more detailed quotation, listing the MCI CleverExplore system, an MCI Air optical table and compatible Faraday cage
- We request quotations for all other components from the respective suppliers. In some cases the quotes will be sent to us, and in others directly to the customer, depending on the aforementioned agreement with Dr Y and the different supplier policies
- After discussing the quotes with her, we further negotiate on prices with suppliers, where applicable
- We provide an exact quote for the pre-owned objectives and put her in touch with the seller. We assist with the paperwork, particularly concerning the warranties
- We supply the bill of materials and assembly cost for the micro-injection dispense system
- We supply the bill of materials and instructions for assembly of the multi-channel perfusion system and treadmill
- We list all peripheral items and sources
- Total amounts now include assembly costs, integration and installation fees, as well as approximate costs for travel and accommodation of the application scientist working on this case
We now have exact pricing on everything, and the total amount will be just over the $60k threshold. It will therefore have to go to tender. We provide motivation documentation which can be referred to in the tender writing process to make the process easier for Dr Y
Step 7 – Procurement Administration
The tender is written and published. MCI contacts all applicable suppliers and shares the tender details with them.
The orders are placed.
Step 8 – Pre-installation
MCI continues the conversation with all suppliers to synchronize delivery times. When all deliveries have been arranged Dr Y agrees on a week dedicated to MCI installation and integration.
MCI supplies a checklist of preparations necessary on her side prior to the installation.
MCI further arranges with the customer for all the DIY parts to be shipped to MCI prior to the installation dates, for assembly and testing.
Step 9 – Installation
MCI’s application scientist visits over a 5-day installation period.
Day 1&2 – Unpacking and Assembly
Initial assembly including optical table, Faraday cage, Microscope and optics, manipulators, stage, pipette in bath.
Day 3&4 – Testing and troubleshooting
We test for optical alignment, acceptable noise levels, and pipette drift within a 1-hour period.
Day 5 – Customer training
Full training on rig including training in software.
Dr Y signs off on the installation. On the documentation, it is noted that MCI still needs to provide an additional training session on the spatial illuminator. This will be done remotely, 5 days after installation, with assistance from the manufacturer. It is also agreed that there will be an initial follow-up within 3 weeks after installation.
MCI provides a checklist of components to evaluate and information to be collected within the first three weeks. This checklist serves as a base for the initial follow-up.
Step 10 – Follow-ups
3 Weeks after installation, Dr Y sends the information mentioned on the initial checklist to MCI. We process this, ask some further questions via email, and then arrange for a Skype call followed by written recommendations for addressing any remaining issues. We arrange for a next follow-up date after 2 months.
As standard, this cycle is repeated for the first 12 months after installation. Dr Y, however, decides to continue this follow-up process after the initial period, and signs up for a support package at an added but minimal fee.
4 months after the installation, she sees some drift on one of the recording electrodes. After a remote evaluation from MCI, an application scientist visits the lab to perform extensive tests and troubleshoot the issue. During the visit, she further mentions that the vibratome is unusually loud. As stipulated in the initial agreement, the application scientist assists with the liaison with the supplier to arrange for the repair of the vibratome, which is still under warranty.
Bespoke Rig Design
Bespoke electrophysiology and imaging rig design, integration, installation and support service.