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17 July, 2017 - 10:39 By Tony Quested

Sphere Fluidics and partners funded to develop desktop genome editing system

Sphere Fluidics Frank Craig

Cambridge-based Sphere Fluidics and three partners in a transatlantic team have won a $1.25 million grant to develop a novel automated single cell genome engineering platform.

The grant syndicate includes Horizon Discovery from Cambridge, the University of Edinburgh and Twist Bioscience in the US.

The award was an Open Innovation Grant from InnovateUK with participation open to companies in every industry.

Sphere Fluidics CEO Dr Frank Craig (pictured) said: “Sphere Fluidics is now manufacturing and selling its single cell analysis and characterisation system (Cyto-Mine®) for the biopharmaceutical discovery and development market.

“We recently formed a syndicate of leading experts in genome editing techniques, such as CRISPR/Cas9, with the aim to adapt Cyto-Mine technology to the genome editing field. We were thrilled to win this InnovateUK grant and create the opportunity to become world leaders in this field.

“Sphere Fluidics is entering an exciting phase of internationalisation and this grant project supports our strategy of extending Cyto-Mine to new and emerging global markets such as the genome editing field.

“It cements an exciting time for us as earlier this year we raised $2.8 million to help complete Cyto-Mine product development and manufacture and open a US sales office.”

Craig said the syndicate was led by Greenwood Way Capital and supported by existing investors, such as 24Haymarket. 

“The support of that syndicate also helped us recently win UK Business Angels Association 2017 Life Sciences Investment of the Year,” Dr Craig added. Such awards indicate that the investment community is also excited about the global potential of Sphere Fluidics and the Cyto-Mine technology.”

The desktop genome editing system project involves a collaboration by three established Life Science companies with complementary technologies, allied to a leading academic partner.

Sphere Fluidics is a leader in the application of microfluidic and picolitre droplet (picodroplet) technology for development of innovative systems for single cell analysis.

Horizon Discovery was the first UK company to commercialise emerging gene editing technologies and has established a growing international sales pipeline of products and services into the life sciences marketplace.

Twist Bioscience is pioneering new approaches to DNA synthesis aimed at reducing the time and cost associated with a wide range of technologies in the life sciences.

The project also benefits from end-user expertise, know-how and understanding of the scientific and medical applications of genome editing technologies within Dr Steven Pollard’s team at the University of Edinburgh.

Dr Craig says that together the partners are in a unique position to demonstrate an innovative approach to genome editing.

Sphere Fluidics R & D director, Dr Marian Rehak, added: “The aim of this project is to generate an automated, benchtop device for the creation of high-value, genome-edited cell lines.

“Genome editing is rapidly becoming an essential tool across all areas of life sciences R & D (e.g. basic research, diagnostics, gene therapy and regenerative medicine, synthetic biology and bio-manufacturing). By 2020, the global market is estimated to be worth almost $2 billion per annum and rapidly growing with a CAGR of around 36 per cent.” 

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