Celldom has its eye on low-cost, scalable single-cell analysis

By Samantha Black, PhD, The Science Advisory Board editor in chief

Celldom, a startup based in Durham, NC, has developed a low-cost, high-throughput, single-cell analysis platform designed to investigate and classify rare cells associated with diseases like cancer. The company is one of 10 semifinalists in the BioTools Innovator accelerator contest. We spoke with co-founder and CEO Benjamin Yellen as part of our exclusive coverage of the competition.

Yellen, a Duke University professor of 15 years, explained that he started the company -- along with other founders -- by building on the foundation that had been laid by other pioneering companies such as Fluidigm, which is often regarded as the grandfather of single-cell analysis. However, Celldom is solving a key technological challenge within the industry by focusing on the scalability of its single-cell analysis platform.

The company's TrapTx Analyzer System captures both phenotypic and genomic data for a massive number of cells (up to tens of thousands of cells per experiment) to identify and study rare cells that play a role in disease. The platform comprises single-use, DNA-barcoded microfluidic chips, as well as hardware for loading chips with single cells, image-based incubation for continuous phenotypic analysis of live biology, and cloud-based software analytics.

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What makes Celldom's technology unique, according to Yellen, is the cost. The materials are all plastic, and the approach is comparable to active serial approaches while using passive trapping strategies.

Yellen and his team aim to implement the technology to conduct single-cell analysis of patient samples prior to administering a therapy, with the goal of predicting which therapy is most likely to succeed.

Celldom is one of 10 semifinalists that have the chance to win $200,000 in cash prizes in the BioTools Innovator accelerator contest, with the list of semifinalists released in late July. All semifinalists are assigned a mentor and will complete a curated curriculum designed to help them secure additional funding and elevate their companies to the next level. The field will be narrowed to four companies in early October. The four finalists will present at a live finale on October 14, where the audience will help decide the winner.

Stay tuned and follow along as we get a behind-the-scenes look at these companies as they race toward the finish!

Disclosure note: The BioTools Innovator accelerator contest is sponsored by Research Corporation Technologies and BroadOak Capital Partners, investors in ScienceBoard.net's parent company, Science and Medicine Group.


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