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Irish Microfluidic Startup Cellix to Debut Two New Technologies in January, April

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Microfluidic tool company Cellix this week said it plans to launch a pair of products next year, beginning with its automated nanotech-based VenaFlux analysis platform, which will debut at LabAutomation 2008 in Palm Springs, Calif., next month.
 
In addition, a new biochip system designed to grow endothelial cells in a channel and pump a cell suspension over them will roll out at the Society for Biomolecular Sciences annual meeting in St. Louis, Mo., in April.
 
The high-throughput VenaFlux platform combines Cellix’ Vena8 biochip with its Mirus nanopump and DucoCell cellular-analysis software, Cellix CEO Vivienne Williams told CBA News this week. The product comprises eight parallel, enclosed microcapillaries that each can be coated with a different antibody and injected with cell suspensions via Cellix’ Mirus pump.
 
The launch of the automated nanotech-based cell-analysis platform and the cell-growing biochip will allow Cellix to continue doing business with global pharmaceutical shops and optimally expand its footprint in the US market.
 
Cellix, based in Dublin, Ireland, said that the Mirus pump’s flow rates are 5 pL per minute to 10 µL per minute and the stress levels that the pump can mimic are up to 30 dynes per cm2, which are equivalent to those found on blood vessels in vivo.
 
According to Williams, pharmaceutical companies are using the current version of the Vena8 biochip as part of the company’s core microfluidic SP platform to optimize drug leads. For example, AstraZeneca uses the platform in its atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease research and said it has committed to buying a second platform next year; Amgen uses it to study inflammation; and labs in the National Institutes of Health use it to better understand immunology.
 

“The company has grown recently and is seeing much more interest in the US market for its cell-based assays.”

In addition, French drug giant Sanofi-Aventis said it wants to buy a VenaFlux automated platform and has budgeted for one in 2008. The company intends to use the technology to study thrombosis, Williams said. 
 
According to Williams, the platform may have applications in oncology, including as a model of tumor cell migration and metastases in vivo.
 
Cellix is a relative newcomer to the fields of microfluidics and continuous-flow assays — it was founded in 2004 by Williams, Cellix CTO Dmitry Kashanin, and Igor Shvets, a professor of physics at Trinity College Dublin — and therefore will experience competition from more established firms that sell similar technologies. These include Caliper Life Sciences’ LabChip platform, Guava Technologies’ Personal Cell Analysis system, and Cellectricon’s DynaFlow platform.
 
Dublin its Footprint
 
Cellix was spun-out of a collaboration between Trinity College Dublin’s nanofluidics group and the college’s cell-signaling group. Williams said that the latest IP was developed in-house, and Trinity College Dublin was the original licensee (see CBA News, 8/10/2004).
 
Cellix was initially funded by Enterprise Ireland, a Dublin-based government agency that helps nurture Irish industry. The company raised approximately $1 million in additional funds last year, and is hoping for a second round of funding next year.
 
According to Williams, the company has seen growing interest in the US market for its cell-based assays, and consequently has hired Julia Umlauf as its US account manager. Besides its headquarters in Dublin, the company has an office in New York City that acts as a sales and marketing arm.

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