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3 April, 2019 - 09:50 By Kate Sweeney

TTP invests almost $5m in nextgen cell-sorting technology spin-out

Cambridge innovation hothouse TTP plc has invested $2.2 million in a new spin-out business – Cellular Highways – developing a new generation of automated high-throughput cell sorting instruments for research, diagnostic and therapeutic applications.

Powered by a new microfluidic cell sorter technology, new instruments created by Cellular Highways are designed to reduce the cost and complexity of cell sorting and achieve far higher throughput than existing platforms, TTP says.

The spin-out has been founded to commercialise TTP’s proprietary Vortex-Actuated Cell Sorting (VACS) technology and fast-track development of a first commercial product, Highway 1™. The investment in the spin-out is in addition to over $2.63m development funding to date. 

Launch product Highway 1 will be officially unveiled at CYTO, the 34th Congress of the International Society for Advancement of Cytometry, in Vancouver from June 22-26.

The VACS technology has the potential to enable new cell therapies, liquid biopsy diagnostics, and high-throughput drug discovery applications. It is the first cell sorting technology with the demonstrated core performance to translate research to the clinic, enabling high-throughput cell sorting that is sterile and free of cross-contamination and scalable to therapeutically-relevant batches of cells. 

TTP says that VACS provides an enclosed, sterile cell sorting chip, where cells can be typed according to molecular markers, and sorted into separate outputs. 

Importantly, the technology is multiplexable, enabling scale-up to large batches of cells (upwards of around a billion) at high speed, to support development of cell therapies and diagnostics.

A team at TTP led by Dr Salman Samson Rogers has been developing the VACS technology over the past two years. Dr Rogers has been appointed CEO of Cellular Highways. 

Highway 1 has been designed to provide “an aseptic cell sorter for every lab”. Input and output fluids are entirely contained in sterile sort microfluidic cartridges, which house the inertial sorter chip, to eliminate risks associated with biohazardous aerosols and cross-contamination.  

Cellular Highways will be based at TTP’s Melbourn Science Park headquarters. 

Dr Rogers said: “Our mission is to make better cell sorting accessible to every laboratory, and to enable therapeutic and diagnostic cell sorting applications that are ill-served by incumbent products.

“Powered by VACS technology, our instruments will reduce the cost and complexity of cell sorting and will be easy to operate. We are interested in hearing from beta testers, research partners, new colleagues and anyone with an interest in better cell sorting.”

Matthew Carr, head of life sciences at TTP and chairman of Cellular Highways, added: “Investing in new technology and product development is at the heart of what we do at TTP. The launch of Cellular Highways is a great example of what happens when technically brilliant people come together, working across disciplines in a collaborative and creative environment.”

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