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1 November, 2017 - 14:59 By Tony Quested

Triple success for Cambridge life science pioneers

Sphere Fluidics CEO Frank Craig

The global kudos being generated for Cambridge by life science innovators was ramped up a few more notches with a triple success unveiled today.

The most notable triumph was arguably achieved by Sphere Fluidics. Frost & Sullivan commended the company for its single-cell analysis platform solution Cyto-Mine® which is said to outperform traditional technologies by sorting, imaging and dispensing in a single platform.

Cancer genomics business Inivata has meanwhile forged a strategic partnership with West Cancer Center in Tennessee to boost efforts to transform global care of the disease and improve global outcomes.

And in a third landmark for the science & technology cluster, Novacyt – which includes Lab21 in Cambridge – made a successful bow on the UK’s AIM market in a unique cross-Channel double listing. The AIM float adds to the group’s Paris listing.

Novacyt raised €9.7 million before expenses allied to the IPO and the shares listed at 59.38 pence per share, giving the company a market capitalisation of approximately £22.4m (€24.9m).

Frost & Sullivan recognised Sphere Fluidics with the 2017 European New Product Innovation Award based on its recent analysis of the single cell analysis industry.

Sphere Fluidics owns 25 patented products that include instruments, biochips, and specialist chemicals. The company helps more than 220 customers globally with its product platforms and works with academic researchers and companies through direct partnerships to achieve application-specific expertise with its technology access and collaborative services programmes.

In the biopharmaceutical drug discovery space, companies traditionally explore and analyse engineered cells and their biomolecules with single cell analysis and sorting platforms, such as clone pickers and fluorescence-activated cell sorting. 

However, as Frost & Sullivan's research shows, the discovery of a single drug can involve multiple steps in single cell analytics, including analysing, sorting, imaging, and dispensing into individual wells of microtiter plates. Traditional methods currently used by many companies in this space require different types of equipment for each step, which increases costs, turnaround time, and the risk of sample contamination. In addition, these common methods can lead to ineffective data processing and data reproducibility issues.

Cyto-Mine can perform multiple tasks in a single compact and portable system, reducing equipment costs, lab space footprint and the risk of sample contamination.

Its proprietary picodroplet microfluidic technology allows for the ultra-high throughput analysis of isolated cells in miniaturised (pL to nL) picodroplets, which use biocompatible surfactants for stabilisation that can provide a buffer cushion around each cell to protect them from shear stress.

The technology can process several million picodroplets per day so the end user can screen more cells (up to 10 million) to detect rare diseases in less time.

“Frost & Sullivan finds that the innovative design of the Cyto-Mine® platform can compete with the design aspects of traditionally used clone pickers or flow cytometry to ensure faster analysis with higher success rates,” said Sanchari Chatterjee Maity.

“Sphere Fluidics' platform design is capable of analysing millions of discreet samples per day. Test results showcase high-speed sorting, processing, and detecting of about 18,000 cells per minute.”

Sphere Fluidics CEO Frank Craig said he was thrilled that the company’s intense efforts and innovation had been recognised with such a globally respected accolade.

The Inivata-West Cancer Centre collaboration is being pursued through Inivata’s Knowledge Accumulation Network (IKAN) – a global network of world-leading cancer centres working in partnership with the Cambridge company to assess the potential of its liquid biopsy technology.

Clive Morris, chief medical officer of Inivata, said: “We are excited to welcome the West Cancer Center, a world-leading cancer institution, to the IKAN.

“Together we will work on a number of projects involving a broad range of indications to develop and validate our InVision liquid biopsy platform. We believe that the sharing of knowledge between world-leaders is crucial for the continued advancement of the field.”

West Cancer Center delivers care to more than 30,000 patients each year as part of a partnership with Methodist Healthcare and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, combining leaders in education, research, and medical care.

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Dr Frank Craig, CEO at Sphere Fluidics

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