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Upstart Accuri Develops $25K Flow Cytometer; Price May Transform Market

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — In a move that may transform the flow cytometry industry, start-up biotech Accuri Cytometers last week launched a flow cytometer that it believes is as good as or better than market-leading instruments with similar specifications, but costs about 75 percent less.
 
The new instrument, called the C6 flow cytometer, will retail for about $25,000 and stands to move flow cytometry out of core labs and onto the bench tops of individual researchers while increasing its use in basic biomedical research, drug discovery, and proteomics — a brewing trend that has been slowed by the high cost of existing instruments.
 
“We wanted to bring the power of a high-end flow cytometer to basic research laboratories,” David Olson, Accuri’s chief scientific officer, told GenomeWeb News sister publication Cell-Based Assay News at the American Society for Cell Biology annual meeting in San Diego last week.
 
Accuri introduced the C6 at the ASCB meeting. A large banner over the company’s booth read “2 lasers, 6 detectors, less than $30,000 – A flow cytometer for all.” To reach these specs Accuri had to redesign the concept of a flow cytometer from the ground up, according to Olson.
 
“The engineering team that built this had never seen a flow cytometer before,” he said. “What drops the cost is simplicity of design. We still have high-quality components.”
 
The C6, which is available for purchase now, is about the size of a microwave oven and weighs less than 30 pounds. It features two lasers – industry-standard 488- and 633-nm lines – can detect four colors, and contains two scatter channels.
 
The fluidics system is driven by a peristaltic pump and currently features a standard feed tube for introducing a cell suspension to the instrument, although the company next year plans to launch a system based on 96-well plate sampling.
 
According to Olson, the instrument features a simplified optical path that reduces alignment issues and increases sensitivity; 24-bit leading-edge chip technology – the only flow cytometer to feature such electronics – which allows a user to capture more data; and improved photomultiplier tube gain control.
 
According to data on the company’s website, the C6’s sensitivity, dynamic range, and speed are comparable to or better than flow cytometers marketed by competitors and clear market leaders Becton Dickinson and Beckman Coulter, as well as one marketed by Guava Technologies.
 
Jack Ball, Accuri’s chief commercial officer, told CBA News, said the company’s initial market comprises “people who are routine users of flow cytometers in core labs. Our market statistics say that a large majority of those people are frustrated with their access.”
  
“We are going to be expanding the number of scientists who are using flow cytometry as a routine tool,” added Jennifer Baird, Accuri’s president and CEO. “Our market research shows that people were using sub-optimal cell-analysis tools because they were convenient. They know that flow is better for those assays and experiments that they want to do, but they haven’t had access to an instrument.”
 
Larry Sklar, a professor at the University of New Mexico Medical School and head of the National Institutes of Health-funded Molecular Libraries Screening Center there, is a well-known proponent of flow cytometry and especially of its increased use in drug discovery. He told CBA News that a flow cytometer that costs under $30,000 may be “transformative” for biomedical research.
 
“It would make the technology accessible to everyone who wanted it, all hours of the day and night, as opposed to people going to shared flow cytometry facilities within institutions,” Sklar told CBA News this week. “I believe that applications will proliferate just because of accessibility. I think that the idea of having a high-throughput technology, or a plate-based technology that is capable of multiplexing, has the potential to allow people to really do proteomics-scale analyses – the idea that you can do whole families of interactions at a time.”
 
“There are a lot of things that people would do with flow cytometry, but it hasn’t actually penetrated their research,” he said. “I think this could make a big impact on what people will be able to do in basic biological and biomedical sciences, because if they’re working in a biology department, it may be too much trouble to come across to the medical school [core facility]. But for $30,000, the biology department could have its own instrument.”

The complete version of this article appears in the current Cell-Based Assay News, a GenomeWeb News sister publication.

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