Fluxion Biosciences has received a $1.2 million Phase II SBIR grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a benchtop, multiplexed, single-cell electroporation system that could help the company perform gene knockdown experiments with siRNA, according to CEO Jeff Jensen.
The workstation will select, trap, and deliver biological reagents inside individual cells in a highly controlled manner. Applications for this system include siRNA delivery, protein-pathway mapping, and stem cell research, Jensen said.
“What is different about our approach is that most other approaches do bulk electroporation,” Jensen told CBA News this week. “We want to do this on the single-cell level for several reasons, including higher cell viability and control of the dosing.”
Higher cell viability results in less cellular damage, Jensen said, because it can determine how “open” the pores on a cell surface are and it can control the electric field applied to the cell. In addition, researchers can monitor the cell as its pores close and the cell returns to its normal, healthy state, he said.
Jensen said the third benefit is that materials such as proteins and other molecules that would not naturally migrate into a cell can be driven into it.
“What is different about our approach is that most other approaches do bulk electroporation. We want to do this on the single-cell level for several reasons, including higher cell viability and control of the dosing.”
The bulk approach is appropriate for an experiment that deals with lower yields and less control over dosing. It could also be used where enough cells are available for fluorescent tagging or other staining techniques, Jensen said.
However, the single-cell approach “really comes into play if you are dealing with very rare cell populations, such as stem cells, or if you are trying to drive something into the cell that’s not easy to do using traditional bulk approaches,” said Jensen.
The grant will also help to scale up this technique, said Jensen. He said that the idea is not to do one cell at a time, but do individual control of each cell, and do it in a multiplexed array. The company is trying to scale up this technique to look at hundreds of cells at a time and maintain bulk level-type throughput with single cell level-type control.
The specific goal of the grant is to develop a high-throughput prototype capable of combining electroporation for intracellular delivery with integrated functional cell analysis, Jensen said.
Even though the project will be further refined, it will allow Fluxion to get the proof-of-concept answers it needs, move the project into product development, and launch it, he said.