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Cyntellect Lands $1.3M Phase II SBIR Grant To Develop Cloning Apps for LEAP Platform

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Cyntellect this week announced that it has received a $1.3 million Phase II SBIR grant from the National Institutes of Health to help it further develop assay and software applications for its Laser-Enabled Analysis and Processing technology. 
 
Cyntellect CBO James Linton declined to discuss specific plans for future LEAP applications, but said that the company would seek feedback from customers and others in the field about how to best to exploit the technology’s ability to address unmet market needs.
 
LEAP is an automated platform for the in situ purification and/or laser-based transfection of live cells. The system combines high-speed imaging and multi-parameter visual characterization of cells with simultaneous laser-based cell manipulation.
 
In a statement, Cyntellect said that it plans to use the funding to develop LEAP-based applications for automated high-speed purification and cloning of cells based upon their secretion of specific proteins.
 
In addition to the new applications for LEAP, the company has several other product development efforts underway.
 
Linton said that Cyntellect has not yet disclosed a launch date for its High-Throughput Optoinjector, whimsically dubbed HOP, which the company said previously would be launched this year.
 
HOP is based on the same core technology as LEAP. It is a small bench-top system that is designed to deliver molecules into living cells for applications in several areas, including functional genomics, functional proteomics, and basic transfection.
 
In addition, Linton said the company is currently developing a third system, called the Single Cell Identification Platform, or SCIP. This technology uses Cyntellect’s IP for the high-speed imaging of cells to create a low-cost, high-performance, label-free cell imager. SCIP will be useful for applications such as clonal verification, Linton said. He mentioned that the company has not released a timeline for the commercialization of SCIP.
 
LEAP of Faith
 
Cell analysis and cell manipulation are two areas that have previously been independent, but Cyntellect sees a need for these two fields to converge, Linton said.
 
“What we bring to the table with LEAP are the ability to rapidly analyze living cells, study them in real time or kinetically, and then laser process and laser manipulate the cells to deliver any of a variety of outcomes,” he said.
 
These outcomes include purifying cell populations to extraordinarily high homogeneity, Linton said, which is useful for gene expression studies and biomarker studies, and cellular diagnostics.
 
Linton said that LEAP allows researchers to functionally clone cells, which means that the cell with the most appropriate functional properties can be selected, grown in culture, and its properties exploited. He said this is useful for high-throughput screening, drug profiling, and biopharmaceutical manufacturing of protein therapeutics.
 
LEAP uses a laser to deliver molecules into cells “in a way that no one else can,” said Linton. “The laser allows us to very gently get a variety of biomolecules into the cell, including proteins, DNA, siRNAs, and even small-molecule drugs.”
 
Linton mentioned that researchers have been able to demonstrate LEAP’s capabilities in cells that are typically difficult to address with existing technologies or that are ultrasensitive to technological approaches, such as B-cells and T-cells, neurons, and primary cells from patients.
 
Cyntellect received CE marking for LEAP last September (see CBA News, 9/15/06). 
 

“This is what we bring to the table with LEAP — the ability to rapidly analyze living cells, study them in real time or kinetically, and then laser process and laser manipulate the cells to deliver any of a variety of outcomes.”

In April 2005, the company announced two significant deals: a worldwide licensing agreement that allowed Sigma-Aldrich to commercialize its LEAP-based CellXpress service for purifying super-secreting cell lines in biomanufacturing, and a research agreement with Japanese drug maker Daiichi to use LEAP in cell-based drug discovery
 
The company received a $2.2 million milestone payment from Sigma last June.
 
Last March, Cyntellect and investigators from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston announced a joint project to use LEAP to screen combinatorial siRNA libraries (see CBA News, 3/24/06).
 
Linton said that the company has a number of additional collaborations with research institutions and industrial labs that it is not permitted to disclose.   
 
Room to Grow
 
Last year, Cyntellect also flirted briefly with the notion of going public by selling shares on iSEX, a division of the Icelandic Stock Exchange focused on mid- and small-cap companies. Nordvest Securities prepared an admission document stating that it was to lead the private placement of approximately $11 million worth of shares.
 
It seems, however, that the company has decided to scuttle this plan after it obtained sufficient revenues from its product-related deals and government grants. According to Linton, Cyntellect has no plans to go public any time soon.
 
“This is a small company, with only 26 or 27 people,” Linton said. “Our plan is to focus on revenues and profits.”
 
He added that although platform and tool companies are not “in the limelight” in the public markets, Cyntellect is talking to a variety of private investors that are interested in this space. “In the right circumstances and with the right investors, we would, of course, finance company growth,” Linton said.

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