As we head into the summer, BioStock takes a look at Fluicell’s achievements so far this year. Standing out are the company’s launch of their latest product, Biozone 6, and its dive into the regenerative medicine field through its BioRej Advance programme. BioStock spoke with Fluicell’s CEO Victoire Viannay to get her thoughts on the company’s new direction and what milestones Fluicell has its sights on for the rest of 2021.
Despite facing the challenge of the pandemic during the first half of 2021, Swedish single-cell company Fluicell has not been held back on its quest to empower researchers to improve human health by developing the tools needed for drug discovery and development.
In March, 16 months after launching the 3D bioprinter Biopixlar, which has led to new distribution agreements and increased sales for the company, as well as the initiation of CRO services, Fluicell released its fourth product based on advanced microfluidics for single-cell biology – Biozone 6. Read more about the new product here.
The launch of Biozone 6, like that of Biopixlar, is yet another example of Fluicell bringing to fruition innovative ideas based on the principles of microfluidics, and it represents the high level of expertise and dedication within the company. It comes at a time of growth and expansion for Fluicell, not only in terms of new investments into product development and R&D, but also in terms of new recruitments to the team. So far this year, the company has added two application scientists and a development engineer.
A major milestone for Fluicell came in June with the sale of a Biopixlar platform to National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, which is part of the National Institutes of Health. Fluicell’s expansion in the US continued in June, first through an agreement with the American life science company Nexus Scientific for marketing and finding new customers for Biozone 6 and BioPen, in the US market. The agreement gives Fluicell the opportunity for a stronger presence in one of the world’s largest markets. The agreement with Nexus Scientific was soon followed by a collaboration agreement with IonOptix where, based on Fluicell’s unique expertise, IP and know-how, Fluicell will further develop IonOptix’s platform for cardiac cell analysis.
Entering regenerative medicine field
The other major highlight of the year has been the company’s commitment to the very promising field of regenerative medicine by taking advantage of Biopixlar’s high-resolution bioprinting capabilities. The aim is to focus on developing advanced therapy medicinal products (ATMP) based on transplantable microtissues, thus targeting important disease areas like Type-1 diabetes, congestive heart failure, or age-related macular degeneration (AMD). For a more in-depth look into this initiative, read here.
For this endeavour, Fluicell has introduced a new partnership programme for ATMP research and development called BioRej Advance. The programme serves as a technological framework for development of advanced therapeutics targeting diseases that have a large impact on human health and that today lack adequate treatments and where engineered tissues have the potential to provide positive benefit. This means that almost any type of disease area can be targeted, not just the indications mentioned above. Moreover, with the new program, Fluicell is evolving from being solely a research instrument developer, to also moving towards becoming a driving force for therapeutic development.
»Based on scientific advances in high precision tissue printing using Biopixlar, Fluicell is now entering the rapidly growing regenerative medicine market. We have developed strong product concepts in three therapeutic areas where small-scale precision tissues can restore organ function and offer treatment alternatives. Because of this recent development, we now see a great opportunity to enter this new phase in the evolution of Fluicell that we believe will greatly benefit the future growth of the company« — Victoire Viannay, vd Fluicell
A key factor in generating new partnerships for the BioRej Advance programme has been Fluicell’s involvement in the BIRDIE project – an initiative to develop models for investigating viral infection and nephrotoxicity and to build relevant platforms to contribute to future therapies for patients with kidney disease.
The project, initiated in March and funded by a large grant of 3 million EUR from the EU Framework Program for Research and Innovation, Horizon 2020, brings together a consortium of partners that includes the coordinator of the project, Maastricht University, and Université de Nantes, both of which will be using Fluicell’s Biopixlar to develop reliable and relevant bioprinted models of human kidney tissue, The other industry collaborator is TissUse GmbH, which will provide their own Multi-Organ-Chip to enable a co-culture of physiologically relevant tissue models in a closed microfluidic circuit.
CEO looks ahead
BioStock spoke with Fluicell’s CEO Victoire Viannay to get her thoughts on the company’s work done so far this year and what to expect for the rest of 2021.
Victoire Viannay, Fluicell has continued to grow this year, despite the pandemic. What has been the key to affronting this difficult challenge, both for you as leader of the company and for the team as a whole?
– As a small sized company with around 20 employees, we are used to thinking outside the box and to quickly adapt to rapidly changing conditions. The difficulty is being able to do that, and at the same time continue to give some level of continuity and stability to the employees. The pandemic has been a shock to everyone, not only last year but this year as well as we were hit with the 3rd wave. At Fluicell, we have met this challenge by being a tight-nit team with smart co-workers that are quick to adapt and not afraid of challenges. In addition, we are backed by a very supportive board of directors. As leader, the challenge has been to be able to make fast and intuitive decisions, always in concert with the chairman of the board on one hand and the senior management on the other. It is also about guiding and trusting the sales team, which is at the forefront of the difficulties induced by the Covid-19 pandemic.
You recently announced the sale of a Biopixlar system to the NIH. Can you comment on the importance of that specific deal for Fluicell?–
– We are extremely pleased about this Biopixlar order by the NIH, which we received very recently. The National Institutes of Health is one of the foremost research institutes in the world, with outstanding internal research capacities and a large influence over biomedical research overall. The Biopixlar system has been purchased by the department of diabetes and digestive and kidney diseases, which is an ideal fit for the Biopixlar technological capabilities. The core research focus of this group at the NIH is to study how cells sense and integrate mechanical and chemical information from their environment to control cell state and behavior. That a world renowned actor such as the NIH invests in Biopixlar is a strong signifier for the quality of our technologies and that our products are able to provide unique values for researchers in this field.
– The deal with the NIH is also part of Fluicell’s expansion on the important US market, which, together with Europe, is the largest market for our products. The Biopixlar sold to the NIH is the second system in the US, with the Biopixlar platform that we delivered to OHSU early this year being the first. Together, these two systems will provide a substantially increased exposure for Biopixlar on the US market. In addition to this, our recent sales agent agreement with Nexus means that also BioPen and Biozone 6 are covered in the US, providing a platform for future sales growth.
Specifically, how does the BioRej Advance partnership programme generate value for Fluicell?
– Based on scientific advances in high precision tissue printing using Biopixlar, Fluicell is now entering the rapidly growing regenerative medicine market. We have developed strong product concepts in three therapeutic areas where small-scale precision tissues can restore organ function and offer treatment alternatives. Because of this recent development, we now see a great opportunity to enter this new phase in the evolution of Fluicell that we believe will greatly benefit the future growth of the company.
– We will be conducting preclinical research in the areas of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and eye disease, with the goal to have at least one program going to clinical trial.
– While the challenges associated with therapeutic development should not be downplayed, the economic benefits from a therapeutic product resulting from this program would be considerable, on a scale that is substantially larger than the current scale of the company. Through this programme, we also see an important opportunity to add value to society by focusing on developing therapies for diseases that currently lack adequate treatment options. Deciding to follow the path toward therapeutics is therefore creating different types of long terms value for Fluicell and provides a strong foundation for future growth.
»We see many exciting opportunities for Fluicell for the remainder of 2021. First of all, our core focus is to continue to increase our revenue, both through instrument sales and through research commissions. As we have previously stated, our sales pipeline continuous to be strong, which allows me to see the future for Fluicell in this regard in a very positive light«
The Horizon 2020 grant funding the BIRDIE project has given Fluicell substantial funds directed towards research. What is the benefit for Fluicell in research collaborations such as BIRDIE?
– Fluicell benefits in many ways from research grants such as BIRDIE. First of all, being awarded large grants such as H2020-FETOPEN-2018-2019-2020-01 is a major quality stamp for our scientific acumen as well as our technology platform. Research grants also enable us to fund development work and allow us to explore new trajectories that can lead to new products and increased sales down the line.
– In the BIRDIE project, we are also part of advancing bioprinting research and development towards improved in vitro models for disease understanding that combines high-resolution bioprinting with organ-on-chip technologies. This contributes to advancing the bioprinting market in general, which benefits Fluicell going forward. The project also includes placing two Biopixlar systems in research laboratories in Nantes and Maastricht, something that further advances the position of the platform among core customer groups.
Finally, what milestones are you hoping to achieve during the rest of 2021?
– We see many exciting opportunities for Fluicell for the remainder of 2021. First of all, our core focus is to continue to increase our revenue, both through instrument sales and through research commissions. As we have previously stated, our sales pipeline continuous to be strong, which allows me to see the future for Fluicell in this regard in a very positive light.
– Another important milestone this year will be to develop proof-of-concept for regenerative medicine applications that will create a foundation that will allow us to advance development towards in vivo research in 2022.
– In conjunction with this, we will also focus on establishing partnerships with important R&D players, either towards regenerative medicine or for drug development purposes. Partnering with industry leaders across different areas of biomedical research is an important part of Fluicell’s innovation agenda and will also play an increasingly important role in the advancement of the BioRej Advance program.
– Finally, as we announced at the AGM, we also plan to release a new product during Q4 this year/Q1 next year. Releasing this new product on time will also be one of our core focus points this year.
– Taken as a whole, we can say that there is a lot to look forward to for the remainder of the year. We strongly believe that there is true value in being an innovation company such as Fluicell. This is highlighted in the report The Bio Revolution published by McKinsey & Co. describing a future development where biotechnologies will have far-reaching impact on society as a whole, not least in the area of healthcare. According to this report, “The main capabilities enabling impact are the increased precision and personalisation in the delivery of treatment and the accelerated pace and scope of R&D. In the longer term, innovations are likely to spread to more therapeutic areas such as cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases.” According to Mc Kinsey again, “Companies will need to adapt their business strategies focusing on scientific advances and technologies that are likely to have the most impact, investing in them, partnering with innovative startups, reinventing their own organisations where appropriate, and managing risks.”
– Fluicell, as a small, science-based startup currently at the forefront of innovation, is well situated to meet these requirements and attract collaborations. We see Fluicell as an important part of this development, and we will use our capacity to innovate to strive towards a leadership role.
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.