Fluicell began 2020 with the first sale of its then new product, Biopixlar; by the end of the year, the single cell pioneers were able to announce a fourth product based on microfluidic technology. In between, Fluicell has expanded as a company, both in terms of services and in terms of distribution partnerships, and sales of its R&D products have kept strong. BioStock spoke with CEO Victoire Viannay to get her view of the progress made during 2020 and what to expect from the company during 2021.
With 2020 behind us, many are breathing a sigh of relief. However, while the Covid pandemic has certainly brought on a unique set of challenges to the life science sector, Swedish single-cell technology company Fluicell can look back on 2020 as a year of growth and expansion.
New business opportunities with Biopixlar
Fluicell’s business concept, heavily based on the sales of its R&D-ready products, often requires meetings with potential customers, and travels for showcasing those products to universities and research institutions. Those activities were, of course, limited by the pandemic. However, thanks to its strong reputation within the single-cell space, Fluicell could engage in remote sales dialogues and meetings involving, in particular, its 3-D bioprinter Biopixlar.
When Biopixlar was first announced towards the end of 2019, the product helped opened up a series of business opportunities thanks to a strong demand for a 3-D bioprinter able to replicate complex tissue-like structures by controlling the positioning of individual cells. Fluicell made its first sale in March of 2020 to the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.
Since then, Fluicell has kicked off its own contract research organisation (CRO) services. For now, these services are mainly run through Biopixlar, which, on its own, addresses a mass market of about 1.3 BUSD with an expected annual growth between 17 and 26 per cent. Fluicell received its first CRO assignment with Biopixlar in April from Oblique Therapeutics, a company designing a cell-printed microchip based on Biopixlar’s ability to place cells in exact patterns.
»2020 came along with a great challenge which we could not anticipate: a global pandemic preventing to travel to meet with customers. Fortunately, at Fluicell, we are good at adapting to new situations and we do not fear challenges. With the limitations that 2020 brought, ingenuity took place and we managed to find new ways to reach out to customers online through demos, remote installations, webinars etc. With these adaptions, we have managed to keep up the intensity in our sales activities« — Victoire Viannay, CEO at Fluicell
A boom in sales
Fluicell’s other marketed single-cell products, Dynaflow Resolve and BioPen, also contributed to the company’s strong sales performance during 2020. Oblique Therapeutics made two purchase orders of Fluicell’s Dynaflow Resolve system, amounting to more than 1.1 MSEK in sales. Furthermore, in the spring, the Finnish pharmaceutical company Orion Corporation made a second purchase order for Dynaflow Resolve for more than 600 000 SEK.
Meanwhile, purchase orders for BioPen include one from Roche Switzerland, one from the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC Berlin), one from Slovak Academy of Science in Bratislava, and a fourth purchase order from RWTH Aachen University, one of Germany’s leading universities. Those purchases, which were made by a distributor, are valued at around 140 000 SEK each.
Agreements for market expansion
To help with the sales and market expansion, Fluicell engaged in a few distribution agreements throughout 2020 to reach new markets. The first came in the spring with AXT pty, which gave Fluicell access to markets in Australia and New Zealand for Biopixlar and BioPen. Later, Fluicell signed two distribution agreements, one for BioPen and one for Biopixlar, with Swift Analytical to get access to the UK market. Finally, Fluicell signed a distribution agreement with distributor Beijing E-science, giving additional access to the extensive Chinese market.
A show of innovative strength
The Biopixlar was without a doubt a big newsmaker for Fluicell during 2020, which is no surprise considering its potential as an R&D tool. This potential was confirmed during autumn, first through a 31 MSEK EU grant for the development of 3-D renal tissues, awarded together with three important partners.
A second confirmation came through the publication of a research article in the journal Scientific Reports showing that Biopixlar is capable of printing 3-D neurons. The project, conducted in collaboration with the CRO Cellectricon AB and researchers at Karolinska Institutet, has several potential implications in the field of neuroscience. Read more about the project here.
CEO comments on 2020 and what’s to come for Fluicell
Fluicell’s eventful 2020 was also reflected in the market, especially at the end of the year, when Fluicell’s share price jumped close to 300 per cent from the end of October to the first week of 2021. With the announcement of a fourth product in the pipeline, Biozone 6, expected to launch early this year, it looks like 2021 will be another exciting year for Fluicell.
BioStock contacted Fluicell’s CEO Victoire Viannay to hear her thoughts on 2020 and expectations for 2021.
»As CEO, I have great expectations for Fluicell this year. This will of course depend on the worldwide situation going forward, but I believe that we have a good potential to reach important milestones. As an innovative company, one of our milestones is of course to continue to develop competitive products and services«
Victoire Viannay, looking back at 2020, what would you say has been the most important milestone for Fluicell if you could only point to one?
– 2020 has been an important year in many regards and it is difficult to point to one single event. The year started with the first Biopixlar sale and has since then proceeded with a substantial increase in sales and collaboration agreements, which has resulted in a large increase in revenue compared to previous year.
– 2020 has also been important in terms of validating Fluicell’s and Biopixlar’s position as innovation leaders in the bioprinting field, exemplified first by the publication of a scientific paper in an impactful research journal and then by the major EU research grant, which we were awarded together with prominent European research institutions.
– But if I am going to pick one particular milestone, it has to be how all of this together has resulted in growing interest and faith in the company from the investor community. We enter 2021 from a position of strength that will allow us to continue to innovate.
2020 has been a strong year for sales, despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic. To what would you attribute such a strong performance?
– In parallel to developing new technology, our goal over the years has been to build an effective sales organisation, including a network of high-quality distributors and strong relationship with customers.
In 2020, we have started to see the results of this background work pay off.
– Then 2020 came along with a great challenge which we could not anticipate: a global pandemic preventing to travel to meet with customers. Fortunately, at Fluicell, we are good at adapting to new situations and we do not fear challenges. With the limitations that 2020 brought, ingenuity took place and we managed to find new ways to reach out to customers online through demos, remote installations, webinars etc. With these adaptions, we have managed to keep up the intensity in our sales activities.
– This year, we have also seen a number of sales to returning customers, something that shows the value that the research community sees in our technology and which is something that we are very proud of.
The share price jumped significantly at the end of the year last year, signaling that investors truly believe in what Fluicell has to offer. What is your plan to keep up the momentum?
– You are right and as I was saying, we are very happy about it. It is very satisfying to be CEO of a company that creates value for shareholders, whether they have invested a lot or a little bit less does not matter. We are planning on continuing to communicate to the stock market in a transparent and honest manner. We will continue to convey our values and identity, our fighting spirit and our commitment to bring technological and scientific innovation.
– Our focus is not only on the present but also on building and communicating a long-term vision and show a way to realise it. Fluicell has a huge potential to deliver long-term value and we hope that investors will continue to share the bright future that we see for the company with us.
With the Biozone 6 launching this year, could you comment on its main applications and the potential market it could reach?
– Biozone 6 was developed in conversation with Hoffmann-La Roche and responds to an unmet need in pharmacological research for high-precision tools targeting single cells. The instrument allows researchers to perform dose-response studies and test multiple drug compounds directly on individual cells.
– Biozone 6 is a product built on Fluicell’s unique open volume microfluidic technology and protected by our IP portfolio, aimed at pharmaceutical companies but also interesting for academic research institutions. Biozone 6 is targeting the same fast-growing markets as BioPen and Dynaflow. We see a great synergy between Biozone 6 and our other single-cell products, covering a wide range of uses across many different areas in biological and pharmacological research.
Finally, when looking into the crystal ball, what are your expectations from Fluicell this year in terms of milestones?
– As CEO, I have great expectations for Fluicell this year. This will of course depend on the worldwide situation going forward, but I believe that we have a good potential to reach important milestones. As an innovative company, one of our milestones is of course to continue to develop competitive products and services.
– We also have the goal to execute on sales which we are planning to increase this year. We are currently in many dialogues with potential customers and collaboration partners that can come to fruition. Most of the dialogues concern BioPen and Biopixlar, and Biopixlar can really make its mark on the bioprinting market this year. We wish to demonstrate that Biopixlar is more than an instrument and will move the company forward to exciting new areas such as personalised medicine.
The content of BioStock’s news and analyses is independent but the work of BioStock is to a certain degree financed by life science companies. The above article concerns a company from which BioStock has received financing.