Business Technology

Sphere Fluidics: Single cell analysis has never looked so disruptive

3 min read

04 March 2015

Deputy Editor, Real Business

Sphere Fluidics is an Everline Future 50 company pioneering the development of new technology for single cell analysis. Cyto-Mine is the first machine of its kind and enables analysis of millions of single cells in novel biochips and isolation of rare variants which cause disease. This will also allow them to produce new medicines.

View the complete 2015 Everline Future 50 list

Name: Sphere Fluidics Limited 
Industry/sector: Bio-engineering
Date founded:  2010
Founders: Chris Abell and Wilhelm Huck
Location: Cambridge

Between the pair of them, both chemistry professors from Cambridge University, it’s no wonder that Sphere Fluidics was a success. Wilhelm Huck, a fan of nanotechnology, was the winner of the 2010 European Research Council Advanced Grant on Microdroplets in Microfluidics, with a variety of patents already at hand. Meanwhile, Chris Abell has already founded numerous companies, including Astex Technology and Akubio.

The company, commercialising lab-on-a-chip and picodroplet technology developed at Cambridge University, has created unique products for use in single cell analysis and characterisation and also provides collaborative R&D services in this area.

“Single cell analysis is important as pharmaceutical firms are now moving away from chemical (also called small molecule) drugs towards significant investment in biological drugs (biopharmaceuticals – produced by single cells), stem cell therapies and areas of unmet medical need (e.g. cancer – a single cell disease),” the company suggested.

According to CEO Frank Craig, although the team only has eight members of staff, this is expected to reach up to 50 in three years time.

“We’ve grown in a systematic way, fairly typical of startups. By and large, every company has a similar organisational footprint – a range of types of roles and functions – but in a biotech company you will probably have scientific and manufacturing functions as well.

“One challenge we have is that talented R&D people are difficult to come across and sometimes there are very few people who can do this kind of technical work. In
particular, it can be hard to find people with the right industrial and management background. Sometimes there may literally only be five people in the world with the
right mix of skills and experience.”

Since being founded in 2010, the company has worked on on multiple R&D collaborations with five of the top ten pharma companies and has won two Technology Strategy Board grants with partners MedImmune and Imperial College.

SF explained that “both grants were won following stringent competition and scored over 90 per cent on innovation”.

To date, the company has raised £3.8m, but has stated that “due to income generation, will not require any more investment”.

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