Irish microfluidics shop Cellix this week announced that it has closed a €1.1 million ($1.4 million) second round of funding from European investors, which the company will use to help it develop and commercialize products for drug discovery in the areas of diabetes, autoimmune disorders, atherosclerosis, and oncology.
The goal of the round, which brings to around $3 million the amount that the company has raised to date from VCs and other private investors, is to “essentially upscale and accelerate both sides of the business in terms of marketing and to speed up R&D to develop new products,” CEO Vivienne Williams told CBA News.
She was referring to Cellix’s biochips and its VenaFlux platform, which it sells to pharmaceutical and biotech companies. Comparable systems include Caliper Life Sciences’ LabChip platform, Guava Technologies’ Personal Cell Analysis system, and Cellectricon’s DynaFlow platform.
Williams also said the company also plans to launch a third biochip during the second quarter of 2009. The product will focus exclusively on transmigration and invasion under flow conditions, and “will be a real hot seller for oncology groups,” Williams said.
Cellix has also recently added to its staff. About a month ago, the company hired a marketing executive for its Dublin headquarters, followed by a software developer and an electronic engineer.
“Moving forward, we are aiming to hire another two people: for quality control and manufacturing,” Williams said. “I suppose for a small company, we have started to structure the organization more carefully.” She did not elaborate.
“I think that it is really important for a European company such as Cellix to have a US presence, because ultimately, that is where the vast majority of our market and our customers are.”
Cellix also plans to hire an undisclosed number of additional sales people in the first quarter of 2009, “in particular … in the US again,” said Williams. Within the last year, the company has hired a New York City-based sales and marketing manager.
“I think that it is really important for a European company such as Cellix to have a US presence, because ultimately, that is where the vast majority of our market and our customers are,” she said.
Elsewhere outside Europe, Cellix does not yet plan to establish a base of operations in Asia, although it has one distributor in Korea, DayMoon Industries, which the company signed approximately a year ago. Williams said Cellix is currently negotiating with a number of distributors in Japan and Singapore, and has had interest from customers in China.
However, she said Cellix does not feel that it “can handle all of those markets at once. I think that it is more important for us to get a stronger foothold in the US and in Europe before attempting to approach those markets.”
In January, Cellix launched a semi-automated version of its VenaFlux platform, which it had sold as a manual, “customized” version, according to Williams (see CBA News, 2/1/08).
Williams said the automated version is designed to enable researchers to “run higher-throughput assays in the cell-based area for preclinical development.”
The company has recently shipped a unit to Servier in Paris and Pfizer in Groton, Conn., and has performed “a number of other demos of that platform on the East coast of the US as well,” said Williams.
Three months after the semi-automated VenaFlux debut, Cellix launched its second biochip, called the Vena EC, or endothelial cell (see CBA News, 4/4/08). The product replaced Cellix’s Vena8 biochip, which is coated with adhesion molecules and ligands to help researchers observe cell-receptor interactions under flow, Williams said.
But for around a year after launching the Vena8 platform, Cellix began receiving requests from customers who wanted the firm to create a platform that could enable them to observe cell-cell interactions.
Since its launch, the resulting Vena EC has been ordered by Sanofi-Aventis, Servier, and Pfizer, said Williams.