A new microfluidic cell sorter for research and clinical applications
Cellular Highways is developing a new generation of automated high-throughput cell sorting instruments for research, diagnostic and therapeutic applications. Cellular Highways is a spin-out from, and backed by, TTP plc.
Powered by a new microfluidic cell sorter technology, our instruments will reduce the cost and complexity of cell sorting and achieve far higher throughput than existing platforms, thus making cell sorting accessible to every laboratory as well as enabling new diagnostic and therapeutic applications.
Advantages of our core technology
- High speed: switching rate of 43,000 per second in our core microfluidic cell sorting device (equivalent to 43 kHz droplet rate in FACS);
- Suitable for multiplexing: our next step will be to place 16 cell sorting devices in a 4×4 grid of 1 mm pitch to achieve a total switching rate of 2.5 billion per hour – faster than any existing cell sorting device.
- Highly manufacturable: the device is made using standard MEMS processes and materials, with a single microfluidic channel layer.
The currently dominant cell sorting technology, jet-in-air electrostatic droplet sorting, also known as Fluorescence-Activated Cell Sorting (FACS) has enabled great advances in biology since its inception in the 1960s. However, jet-in-air cell sorters have several disadvantages: for many diagnostic and therapeutic applications, they are not fast enough and lack the required safety and sterility. Moreover, jet-in-air sorting requires complex instrumentation, expert operators and significant lab space. This has put cell sorting out of the reach of many users and some of the most valuable applications.
We have invented a new microfluidic cell sorting technology, VACS: vortex actuated cell sorting. Like in FACS, fluorescently labelled cells are measured optically, and cell sorting decisions are made in real time. In our technology, cells to be sorted are deflected individually by a microscopic vortex created by a thermal vapour bubble within a microfluidic system. In addition, the technology can be fully enclosed in a small cartridge, thus eliminating much of the complexity and risks associated with jet-in-air sorters.
Our mission is to make better cell sorting accessible to every laboratory, and to enable therapeutic and diagnostic cell sorting applications that are ill-served by incumbent products. Our instruments will reduce the cost and complexity of cell sorting and will be easy to operate. Moreover, as the core cell sorting technology is housed within a microfluidic cartridge, the risks associated with biohazardous aerosols, contamination and cross-contamination will be eliminated. Importantly, our cell sorter allows scaling to high-throughput applications, since the technology itself is multiplexable. We believe that our technology has the potential to transform, and disrupt, the cell sorting market.
- Cell therapy: a GMP version of our cell sorter for therapy manufacturing – sterile, traceable, validated cell sorting
- Biosafety: handle biohazards in an enclosed cartridge without the aerosol risk
- Single cell ‘omics prep: your personal instrument for SORT-seq
- Phenotypic screening: a multiplex version for fast screening of billions of cells
- Better cell sorting for every lab: a fully automated benchtop instrument with low-cost disposable cartridge.
Created at TTP plc
Cellular Highways is a spin-out of TTP plc, based in Cambridgeshire, UK, and has been created by an interdisciplinary team of physicists, engineers and biologists. We are interested in hearing from beta testers, research partners, new colleagues and anyone with an interest in better cell sorting.
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