Plexon Celebrates 30th Anniversary as Supplier of Neural Data Acquisition Systems

Staff report

From the February 2013 issue of Neurotech Business Report. © 2013 Neurotech Reports.

Plexon, Inc., the Dallas, TX manufacturer of neural signal processing hardware and software, recently celebrated its 30th anniversary as a supplier in the neuroscience research and neurotechnology markets. Plexon is a pioneer in producing high-performance solutions for data acquisition, behavioral research, and advanced analysis specifically designed for neuroscience research.

Plexon’s mission is to be an investigator’s most dependable research partner. To support that mission, the company has built robust solutions that address many aspects of the most challenging areas in research. The company offers the OmniPlex D neural data acquisition system for in-vivo neurophysiology. The CinePlex system is targeted at behavioral research, while the new PlexBright optogenetic stimulation system is geared to one of the fastest growing areas of neuroscience research.

Founded in 1983 in Dallas, Texas by Harvey Wiggins, Plexon (under the initial name of Spectrum Scientific) has grown from a one-person shop to a full team of innovative engineers, biophysicists, and neuroscientists with highly specialized expertise focused entirely on neuroscience research. Over the years, Plexon’s commitment to customers and the research industry has resulted in numerous recognitions for customer satisfaction and impressive growth.

In 2011, that unfettered commitment led Plexon to open an office in Brussels, Belgium. The company now gets half its revenue from customers outside the U.S. Plexon grew its staff by 28 percent in 2012, while experiencing record revenues and double-digit sales growth.

Almost 45 years ago, Wiggins wrote his first neural spike acquisition program on a minicomputer using paper tape and a Teletype for development I/O. Fifteen years following that pivotal start, he founded Spectrum Scientific in 1983 in an effort to pass on his experience and provide powerful signal capture, processing, and analysis to the broad field of neuroscience researchers. Spectrum Scientific became known as Plexon in 1996.

Backed by Don Woodward of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Wiggins designed the Multichannel Acquisition Processor) Data Acquisition System­—affectionately called the “Harvey Box” even today. The MAP system was the first design to provide real-time processing using parallel DSP chips of up to 128 channels of spike signals. Originally, it was controlled by a 486-class PC. Wiggins personally designed all of the hardware and performed the DSP and microcontroller programming.

Wiggins began his journey at the University of North Texas, where he majored in math and physics. Following graduation, he advanced his educational foundation at Southern Methodist University, where he earned his M.S. degree in electrical engineering, carrying double majors in computer science and biomedical engineering. Wiggins’ early career included computer engineering for Nuclear Chicago Corp. and leading a research computer facility at the Callier Center for Communication Disorders where he first became enamored with neurophysiology.

Plexon sponsors an annual neurophysiology workshop, which attracts researchers from around the world. Attendees cultivate their skills, network with other researchers, and trade best practice approaches while experiencing unlimited personal access to the Plexon support team.

Plexon’s customers include domestic and international academic facilities, research hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and governmental laboratories. Investigators have taken advantage of Plexon products to publish their findings in peer-reviewed journals such as Science, Nature, and Neuron.

Among the more prominent Plexon customers is Mario Romero, who heads the laboratory of regenerative neurobiology in the department of bioengineering at University of Texas at Arlington. Romero is interested in the general area of nerve injury and repair with the long-term goal of uncovering the molecular bases of neurite growth, axon guidance, and target recognition, both during development and after injury. His research projects seek to uncover the basic cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the biology of nerve growth, and the implementation of improved nerve repair strategies.

Another customer at UTA is Samarendra Mohanty of the biophysics and physiology group within the physics department. Mohanty focuses on understanding and altering biological systems at molecular, cellular, and organism levels. The team uses advanced biophysics tools such as AFM, optical tweezers, laser scissors, multiphoton and near-field microscopy, holographic imaging, patch clamping, microfluidics, and optogenetics to explore, alter, and understand interesting processes in cells and cellular networks

After 30 years of service to researchers and numerous corporate awards, Wiggins continues to lead Plexon with the same energy and vision that fueled his entrepreneurial spirit decades ago. He maintains an active lifestyle and memberships in such organizations as Society for Neuroscience, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, and the Association for Computing Machinery.”

Wiggins returns to the academic environment whenever he can. He serves as adjunct professor in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Texas at Dallas. He most enjoys mentoring and influencing the education of bright young engineers through his participation on industry advisory boards for the SMU department of electrical engineering and the UTD School of Engineering.

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