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Fluidigm Begins Early-Access Program for Automated Single-Cell Sample Prep System

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Fluidigm said today that it has initiated an early-access program for its new C1 Single-Cell AutoPrep System for single-cell gene expression studies.

The new platform, the company claims, for the first time enables researchers to isolate cells, extract RNA, then reverse transcribe and pre-amplify mRNA transcripts automatically in order to detect and analyze cellular activity.

Fluidigm demonstrated the new system and announced the early-access program at the International Society for Stem Cell Research meeting held this week in Yokohama, Japan.

Under the early-access program, select customers will be able to receive first commercial shipments of the C1 in the second half of this year, prior to the general commercial launch of the instrument.

Early users will also be eligible to receive free consumables, help develop new platform capabilities, and receive pre-market access to future platform expansions, Fluidigm said.

Fluidigm CEO Gajus Worthington first disclosed the development of the C1 last month during a conference call recapping the company's first-quarter 2012 revenues (PCR Insider, 5/17/2012).

Worthington noted at the time that the C1 was expected to bolster Fluidigm's growing single-cell genomics business by helping users of the company's BioMark and BioMark HD platforms reduce sample preparation costs by as much as 50-fold.

He further noted that Fluidigm expects that the C1 may eventually help reduce the cost of conducting single-cell sequencing studies on next-generation sequencing platforms by between 10- and 100-fold.

To use the platform, researchers load a sample of cells in solution into the C1 microfluidic chip in a single pipetting step, then direct the system to rapidly automatically isolate up to 96 individual cells into individual chambers for preparation, Fluidigm said in a statement today.

Users can then choose an "in-process" quality control checkpoint to verify the number of captured cells and distinguish live cells from dead cells to preserve data integrity, the company said. The workflow then proceeds with a rapid "on-chip" cell lysis with RNA purification, reverse transcription, and pre-amplification without hands-on reagent mixing and sample transfer. The final pre-amplified cDNA product is then harvested to collection wells for transfer to the BioMark HD system for quantitative PCR analysis.

Fluidigm said that it expects stem cell, cancer, and immunology research to be the initial focus applications for the system.

"Ultimately, the C1 System will allow researchers to study cell differentiation, measure individual cell responses to specific stimuli, verify critical disease biomarkers, validate RNAi knockdown, and sequence individual cells," Worthington said in a statement.

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