Cell Microsystems Lands NIH Grant for New Single-cell Imaging System

Cell Microsystems logoCell Microsystems, a provider of tools and solutions for sorting and isolating single cells, has been awarded a $1.5 million federal grant to develop a system for imaging thousands of single cells and preparing them for genomic analysis.

The grant, awarded by the National Institutes of Health SBIR program, will fund work to integrate the company’s proprietary CellRaft technology for tracking single cells with optical barcodes developed by collaborator Peter Sims, Ph.D., of Columbia University.

Funded through the National Human Genomics Research Institute, the grant will allow Cell Microsystems to develop a prototype of the AIR-FLOW instrument, consumable cell culture and imaging device, as well as molecular methods for subsequent RNA sequencing. The workflow will use optical barcodes that will allow cellular imaging data generated by the new system to be linked to genomic signatures on a cell-by-cell basis “with unparalleled traceability,” the company said in a news release.

Nick Trotta photo
Nick Trotta, Ph.D.

“Among the commercially available options, no single instrument is capable of this fully integrated workflow,” said Nick Trotta, Ph.D., Cell Microsystems’ director of product applications and market development. “Linking imaging data to genomic data on a cell-by-cell basis for thousands of cells in a single experiment just isn’t feasible with the systems available today.”

Grant support for the AIR-FLOW System “will dramatically accelerate commercialization of this novel and powerful single cell research platform,” Trotta said.

NCBiotech provided early funding

The North Carolina Biotechnology Center provided the Research Triangle Park company a $30,000 loan in 2012 and a $3,000 award for an industrial intern in 2013.

Since February 2016 the company has garnered $6.8 million in NIH funding. The funded work has led to the commercial launch of instruments such as the CellRaft System for Inverted Microscopes, the automated AIR System and several versions of the consumable CytoSort Array compatible with both instrument platforms.

The latest NIH grant “topped off a successful 2017,” said Gary Pace, Ph.D., J.D., Cell Microsystems’ chief executive officer. “We are looking forward to building on this success in 2018 through new product launches and supporting key product applications of the CellRaft technology.”

The company said additional recent milestones include:

The awarding of a second U.S. patent for the core CellRaft technology and the pursuit of an international patent.

A doubling of lab and office space to 1,000 square feet in 2017 and an anticipated doubling of space again in 2018 to support expanded commercial and development activities.

The hiring of three employees including a head for software systems engineering, an R&D engineer and a product applications lead.

Revenue of $2 million in 2017 from grants, licensing and direct sales, a 67 percent increase from the previous year. The company recorded its second consecutive profitable year.

Barry Teater, NCBiotech Writer
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