Apologies for the slow reply Kaspar. With minimal or no modification you have (i) a fluorescent microscope/slide scanner and (ii) some extra chemistry stuff including a system for reliably mounting and plumbing a flow cell.
The microscope can be used to view all manner of things. Used as a transmission microscope, it could view stuff like they sell here:
Used as a fluorescence microscope it can view stuff like is shown here:
I notice that the pre-prepared slides are very expensive but I link to them because this scope should be able to capture similar images. While doing your own staining is possible it’s probably not something you wanna do in your average maker-space for safety reasons. That leaves you with looking at samples which are naturally fluorescent or getting cast-offs from a friendly lab who does a lot of fluorescent microscopy. First, naturally occurring. Most living things auto-fluoresce but at low levels and they don’t provide much contrast. Notable exceptions are fluorescent jelly fish and model organisms that have had fluorescent genes akin to the fluorescing jelly fish gene inserted. I know you can get zebrafish and axolotls that glow and I would expect there’s yeast too, although I haven’t looked. Both of those would look great (until you fried the cells and they died). As for cast-offs, any developmental biology lab that looks at embryogenesis using model organisms such as c. elegans, drosophila and xenopis would be a good bet. I’m sure there will be willing labs. The the issue will be safety which I think is addressable.
Regarding (ii) from above - the chemistry and stage is what differentiates the hi-seq from a standard fluorescent microscope. There’s a couple of ways this could go. The stage is temperature controlled and you can perfuse liquid through the flow cell in a precise way. That means that one could do live cell imaging on the stage and make movies of things growing or reacting to changes in conditions (such as fluorescent zebrafish embryo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJNRIDWjX-o, fluorescent yeast, or regenerating bits of fluorescent axlotl etc). Such activities would not require use of hazardous reagents. The other area that the chemistry and stage is useful for is molecular biology. This is what Kunal is doing and best describes what I was up to. It also includes sequencing DNA (ie. the intended use). For me, this is the main reason to keep the machine whole (as opposed to pulling out a “portable” microscope as Urs has done). I would describe it as a development platform for microfluidics/molecular biology. It can do in high throughput, in situ ligation, amplification, editing and quantification of DNA/RNA.
As I recall, your grant requires some sort of path to commercialisation. If you sell it as a tool for education/outreach then I guess your customers/partners are schools. If you sell it as a development platform for microfluidics then your customers/partners are research institutes and bio-hacking groups who want to DIY various kinds of assays for research and diagnostic purposes.