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9 September, 2019 - 10:37 By Tony Quested

Cambridge startup piling on funds and headcount to boost cell analysis revolution

A Cambridge startup bidding to revolutionise complex cell analysis has raised £1.3 million seed financing from private investors and is already exploring Series A funding to advance its platform technology to commercial launch. It is also seeking to bolster headcount in quickfire time.

Lightcast Discovery is developing a next-generation microfluidic platform originating from work carried out by the founders at Base4 in the UK business and technology cluster.

Lightcast says it has attracted substantial interest from major pharma companies and leading academic groups and is engaged in collaborative studies across a variety of applications. 

The platform promises game-changing capabilities in a broad range of fields including drug discovery, cell therapy, antibody/biologic discovery, CRISPR screening, immuno-oncology, cell line development, stem cell differentiation, and synthetic biology.

CEO Cameron Frayling said: “There is a drive towards increasingly complex cell analysis across life science, often using single cells. However, the tools to run effective single-cell workflows, particularly those with cell-cell interactions, multi-parameter cell selections, or cell-by-cell recovery, just aren’t there at the moment.

“The technology we’ve developed allows for a dramatic increase in the complexity of automated operations that can be performed at scale and using high quality imaging.

“Working with our partners, the unique capabilities of our platform are enabling a truly exciting range of high-impact applications. Ahead of commercial launch, we plan to develop successive prototypes with greater power and scale to enable our users to really advance their discoveries.”

Lightcast’s automated cell manipulation platform is said to offer unrivalled flexibility and control, enabling complex and completely novel cell-based applications and workflows to be performed at scale and at speed. 

Software generated light patterns are employed to precisely manipulate thousands of individual cell-and reagent-containing microdroplets independently and in parallel. Live cells can be cultured, assayed, recovered and monitored at the single-cell level, pushing the current boundaries of complex cell analysis.

The company has multiple pilot collaborations underway, driving advances in new science, clinical approaches, therapies and innovative products. These include projects in immuno-oncology, in which the mechanism of action of a leading new biologic drug is being screened in a multi-step, on-chip reaction between model cancer cells and T-cells, and in antibody- development, in which discovery assays are being implemented on-chip to dramatically shorten the time to screen the immune repertoire of a host, accelerating lead discovery.

Lightcast was co-founded earlier this year by Frayling and Dr Tom Isaac, chief scientist, and has been developing an extensive patent portfolio covering the technology, methods and apparatus.

The company is actively seeking collaborators and development partners with an interest in implementing new, cutting-edge assays on the Lightcast platform and is expanding its multidisciplinary team to help carry out this work, actively recruiting across a number of science and engineering roles in Cambridge.

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