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Fluxion Expands US, European Distributors With Eye On Meeting Growing Demand

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Fluxion has hired five product distributors in the Eastern United States, is planning to hire two sales reps for the Western US, and is close to signing an agreement with a distributor in Switzerland and other European nations as it sets out to meet growing demand for its systems by cell biologists and microbiologists, the company announced this week.
 
Separately this week, the company said it has received a Phase I grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a higher-throughput microfluidic system that will enable detection methods to enhance antimicrobial effectiveness and systems for conducting multi-point dose response curves.
 
Describing its distribution goals, Fluxion said it also has its eye on Asia, where “there is definitely a market,” said Mark Atlas, Fluxion’s sales director. “We have had a tremendous amount of interest on behalf of the academic institutions in Asia, so we have plans to launch there in 2009.”
 
Fluxion’s new US distributors include Imgen, which will sell the company’s products to the National Institutes of Health and other Mid-Atlantic customers; and Bartlet-Williams, which will sell Fluxion’s platforms in the Southeast, Atlas said.  
 
Atlas declined to name the remaining three distributors without their permission, but added that the company is “bringing in” two full-time sales representatives for the Western US.  
 
Fluxion also has an agreement pending with an undisclosed Swiss distributor that will sell the company’s products in that country.
 
“We will be launching the Swiss relationship within the next few months, and from there assessing the direction of future growth outside the U.S. We are probably moving into Germany, the UK, [the] Benelux [countries], and France within the next six months,” he said.
 
Last November, Fluxion announced that it had received $6.9 million in a second round of venture capital and angel funding (see CBA News, 11/23/07). At the time, the company said it would use the money to hire more staff and to develop and commercialize the BioFlux 100 and 200 microfluidic platforms, which can be used for biofilm analysis and cellular-adhesion analysis, respectively, and the IonFlux automated-electrophysiology platform, which is intended for ion-channel studies.
 
“We are actually ahead of our plan,” said Atlas. The company has hired applications scientists for in-house and in-the-field work, he said.
 
Atlas, who himself joined Fluxion in November 2007 (see CBA News, 11/23/07), said the company has “filled out all the R&D positions. In November, we had four people, and we now have about 20.”
 
Within the last several months, the company hired Jody Beecher as director of consumables and Scott Lockhard as vice president of research and engineering, Atlas said.
 

“The BioFlux and the IonFlux are our two flagship products, and we are developing various applications within the product line.”

He said Fluxion has also recently completed new manufacturing facilities, is in the process of scaling up manufacturing, and has installed a class 1000 clean room. In addition, in late January, Fluxion moved into larger facilities in South San Francisco, Calif., that can accommodate about 40 people (see CBA News, 2/1/08).
 
The company was previously headquartered at the University of California’s Mission Bay campus.
 
The IonFlux product is currently still in development, said Atlas, adding that the company is “seeing significant progress there in terms of early adoption by pharma customers.” He declined to name those customers because the agreements have not yet been finalized.
 
Fluxion also announced last November that it signed material transfer agreements for its IonFlux platforms with three out of the top 10 pharmas. “We expect to take two MTAs into full product agreements within the next few months,” said Atlas. “In addition we have several more pending."
 
Looking Ahead
 
In terms of future endeavors, “the BioFlux and the IonFlux are our two flagship products, and we are developing various applications within the product line,” Atlas said. 
 
For example, one of the applications for the BioFlux is called imaging cytometry.
 
As Atlas explained, imaging cytometry ties flow cytometry’s ability to count cells and to evaluate different populations of cells with the ability to look at those cell populations under a microscope, which flow cytometry cannot do.
 
“Our system brings in more applications to an existing platform,” Atlas said.
 
A potential rival for Fluxion’s imaging-cytometry platform is Cambridge, Mass.-based CompuCyte, which markets a technology that it calls laser-scanning cytometry.
 
According to the company’s website, LSC uses “laser-based opto-electronics and automated analysis capabilities” to simultaneously measure biochemical constituents and evaluate cell morphologies.
 
LSC is not limited to analyzing cells in fluids, despite its basis in flow cytometry, CompuCyte said. Instead, the technology allows automated analysis of solid-phase samples, including adherent cultured cells, tissue sections, cancer tissue imprints, and cytology smears, and preserves the sample along with the exact position of each measured sample.
 
The manufacturer claims that this feature allows researchers to automatically “return to, visually inspect, and interrogate specific cells having defined genetic, biochemical, or morphological properties; or to remeasure specimens after retreating them with reagents or drugs.”
 
NIH Grant
 
Fluxion also announced this week that it has received a Phase I grant for an undisclosed amount from the National Institutes of Health to develop a higher-throughput microfluidic system that will enable detection methods to enhance antimicrobial effectiveness and systems for conducting multi-point dose response curves.
 
In an e-mail to CBA News, David Weitz, an investigator at Harvard University, said, “My sense is that [biopharma] is slowly accepting that microfluidic technologies do have something to offer.” Weitz is co-founder of RainDance Technologies.
 
In January, Weitz was principal investigator on a National Science Foundation grant to develop a microfluidics-based fluorescent-activated device (see CBA News, 1/4/08), to be at least partially commercialized by RainDance.
 

A rapidly increasing number of companies are producing microfluidic instrumentation, Weitz said this week, and “I expect this will mean that there is more acceptance within the market.”

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