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Flush With SBIR Grant and VC Cash, Fluxion Plans to Expand Workforce

Fluxion this week said it is looking to expand its six-person payroll after winning a $1.2 million SBIR grant.
The company also said it is considering another round of funding in the fall and is in discussions with a number of potential investors, according to Fluxion CEO Jeff Jensen.
Fluxion said it may hire two employees to participate in a Phase II SBIR grant the company won from the NIH last week (see CBA News, 5/18/07).
Fluxion CTO Cristian Ionescu-Zanetti said at least one of these hires will likely be a technician because Fluxion currently has a lot of high-level researchers on board and needs someone to support their efforts.
The company will also hire more people when it gets additional funding, he said.
Fluxion has received an undisclosed investment from angel organizations including Life Science Angels and North Bay Angels.
The company develops a technology that fabricates microfluidic networks and integrates them into a well-plate format, Zanetti said.
Jensen said he feels the technology enables it to address problems that require microfluidic implementation, but that keep the fluid handling in a format that is easily integrated with familiar technologies for loading compounds, reagents, and cellular materials. 
Zanetti said that the other side of Fluxion’s core competence is the interface it developed with 96-well plates that allows researchers to make interconnections with the fluidics at the same time.
He explained that having these interfaces in microtiter plates means that each well becomes not only a reservoir, but also an inlet or outlet for the fluidics themselves.
Fluxion is currently focused on several different product areas, Zanetti said. One area is cell-adhesion experiments. To that end, the company’s BioFlux system became available at the end of March.
Fluxion is also focused on single-cell electroporation and electrophysiology, the focus of its recent Phase II SBIR grant.
Fluxion feels emerging trends in the cell-based assay arena include the desire to run more functional assays earlier in the discovery process, and doing so in a way that gives scientists more biologically relevant information sooner, said Jensen.

The cell-based assay field will continue to grow dramatically, and is a real major initiative within pharmaceutical and biotech drug discovery.

Jensen also said that researchers want to do cell-based assays in a very high-throughput manner and at very low cost per sample/data point.
The cell-based assay field will continue to grow, and is a major initiative within pharmaceutical and biotech drug discovery, Jensen said, adding that Fluxion thinks that a number of applications are not well served and its platform fits in well with many of them.
According to Jensen, Fluxion believes it can bring automation to applications in several different areas, including traditional HTS processes where drug discovery groups are trying to run very high numbers of samples to do a primary or secondary screen. Jensen explained that researchers need to be able to do this at an attractive cost per sample, per run, and per compound to make it worthwhile.
Jensen said Fluxion feels that a number of manual assays are ripe for automation, including cell-adhesion assays, rolling neutrophil assays, ion-channel assays, electrophysiology assays that are currently done with a manual patch clamp set up, and some microscopy assays in which a scientist manually manipulates the slide to view the images.
Initially, the company is focused on the above areas because it believes they have the highest value, are the best fit for its technology, and have the most interest from the marketplace.

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