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Cellectricon Names Ohlsson as New CEO; Company Has Eye on US, Asian Foothold

Swedish microfluidics and electroporation shop Cellectricon this week announced that its board of directors has appointed Jonas Ohlsson as the company’s new president and CEO.
In a statement, Cellectricon said that Ohlsson’s appointment comes at a time when the company is entering “a phase of rapid expansion.”
In an interview with CBA News this week, Ohlsson said the company, which has “traditionally … been stronger in the European market,” will be focusing more on growing its business in the US.
He also said the company will launch a high-throughput version of its DynaFlow ion channel screening platforms around “the new year.” Former acting CEO Mathias Karlsson has been appointed chief technical officer and will manage the DynaFlow HT launch.
Ohlsson was previously CEO of Mentice, a Swedish developer and supplier of virtual-reality applications within the medical field, where he guided the company through a growth period similar to the one Cellectricon is entering, the company said.
He also held executive positions at PE Applied Biosystems, Kovalent, and AstraZeneca. 
To gain a foothold in the US market, Cellectricon must build an organization that meets the needs of US customers. “We are confident that we have identified the right market needs,” Ohlsson said. 
Cellectricon is currently hiring what Ohlsson termed “a significant number” of personnel in R&D, adding that “in the US, we are building a local sales organization, but we are also expanding our … client support capability.” 
Ohlsson also told CBA News that he would like to see the company put its footprint in “Asia, Japan, India, and China, primarily Japan and India.” Both these markets require good local partners, and a search will be initiated during 2008, Ohlsson said. He went on to say that “it is difficult at this point to say how long it will take to find the right partners for Cellectricon, but we hope that we can conclude our search and enter these markets during 2009.”
Ohlsson said that Cellectricon will launch a high-throughput version of its DynaFlow ion channel screening platform around “the new year or sometime in January.” In addition, Cellectricon recently launched a high-throughput version of its Cellaxess HT cellular transfection platform (see CBA News, 3/28/08).   

“In the US, we are building a local sales organization, but we are also expanding our … client support capability.”

He said that the pharmaceutical companies involved in the development of the Cellaxess HT platform were among “the top 10 size-wise out of 60 companies.”
He added that based on the interest Cellectricon had at the Society of Biomolecular Screening meeting in St. Louis last month and at this week’s RNAi World Congress in Boston, the market for the Cellaxess HT looks very promising.
He also said that the owners of Cellectricon “have raised more capital for internal expansion in terms of capability and know how.” In February, they raised SEK 89 million ($15 million) by issuing stock (see CBA News, 2/22/08).
Over the next several years, the Cellaxess HT and the DynaFlow HT launches will be “more than enough for us to focus on,” he said.  
Cellectricon currently has a US office in Gaithersburg, Md. The company is open to establishing more North American offices, but not in the immediate future, said Ohlsson.
“If we see the market penetration and growth that we expect, we may need to open more offices and look at a more regional corporate structure,” he said.
He added that over the next few years, Cellectricon will focus on launching its new HT systems and enter a few market segments in addition to ion channel analysis and transfection. Ohlsson declined to elaborate.
“Already in the pipeline are two areas that we would like to address based on our core microfluidics and electroporation technologies,” he said.
Michal Tokarz, a project manager for Cellectricon, told CBA News last September that presentations at Cambridge Healthtech Institute’s High-Content Analysis Europe meeting held that month in Prague, the Czech Republic, pointed to an opportunity for Cellectricon’s Cellaxess electroporation system, because many presenters spoke of their need to transfect cells in different ways (see CBA News, 9/28/07).
In early September, Cellectricon announced that it had tapped the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland to evaluate the Cellaxess-HT. The company claims the instrument is the first such system to be designed for genome-wide RNAi screening (see CBA News, 9/14/07).
The company also said that the Cellaxess-HT is the only fully automated system on the market that enables researchers to electroporate cells in culture directly in 384-well microplates.
Cellectricon's competitors in this market include Amaxa, Cyntellect, Fujitsu Biosciences, and MaxCyte. Last week, MaxCyte, a clinical-stage cell-therapeutics shop based in Gaithersburg, Md., debuted its ITF inline transfection system, a validated platform for preparative transfection that is based on flow electroporation technology (see CBA News, 4/25/08).
At the time, Anthony Recupero, MaxCyte’s vice president for business development, told CBA News that although the platform was originally developed for the manufacture of cell-based therapies, the company is making the technology available for research purposes under a limited label license.

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