Meet the deep-tech company that has created a biochip that is being used in the fight against covid-19
Newable Ventures works with some of the most innovative and daring businesses in the deep-tech sector, helping them raise the funding they need to continue innovating and solving issues.
Meet one such deep-tech company, Sphere Fluidics; originally spun out of the University of Cambridge in 2010 by Frank Craig to develop technology that enables cutting edge research and accelerates biopharmaceutical drug discovery. The patented picodroplet technology is specifically designed to increase the chances of finding rare molecules or cells that can lead to a life-changing medicine.
The company has raised circa £18m since 2010, and has developed an international portfolio of 165 patents and 22 trademarks.
Newable Ventures (formerly London Business Angels) made investments in the company in 2012, 2015 and 2016 worth £190,000 in total.
Sphere Fluidics has developed a proprietary microfluidic biochip technology allowing ultra-high throughput analysis of isolated cells in miniaturised droplets of medium (called picodroplets). What started as bespoke hardware built for academic research, Sphere Fluidics has now developed into a robust and automated commercial platform called the Cyto-Mine®.
Cyto-Mine® allows users to screen tens of millions of individual cells or biological molecules, enabling the identification of rare bioproducts (such as antibodies) or diseased cells, reducing workflows and increasing testing rates. It integrates encapsulation, incubation, fluorescence detection, sorting, imaging and dispensing into one instrument. By encompassing all of these processes into one device, a highly costly and time-consuming process is performed with enhanced precision, accuracy and speed. Operational costs are also 15-fold lower than conventional methods.
Standout Achievements so far
Over its lifetime, Sphere Fluidics has been recognised by over 50 industry awards and numerous peer-reviewed journal publications. Recently, the company won four IP prizes in the IP100 awards and received a Queen’s Award for Enterprise. The company has also been shortlisted for the Royal Academy of Engineering 2021 MacRobert Award, the UK’s longest running national prize for engineering innovation.
The key to the company’s success, according to Frank Craig, has been to take one step at a time and grow the company by using the available resources, and securing investment from investors that were aligned with Sphere Fluidics’ philosophy.
Any investor in a business like ours needs to take a long-term view, particularly when there are a host of business challenges to overcome, as well as a significant amount of development required to produce a robust product. Furthermore, due to this need to take a long-term investment horizon, an investor needs to fundamentally understand how our product, target market and customer operates, and the levels of investment needed to scale our business.
Impact of Deep-Tech Technology
Sphere Fluidics’ technology has dramatically reduced the time and cost to find new biopharmaceuticals and valuable cells, with some of the company’s customers finding totally unique “hits” which can then generate novel and new therapies to combat many diseases.
“Some of our customers are working on antibody discovery for potential diagnostics or vaccines against COVID-19. As the Prime Minister has said a number of times, we are in a race against the virus, and Sphere Fluidics are incredibly proud to be contributing to this nationwide effort to support treatments to fight COVID-19!”
Sphere Fluidics is working with major European and US VC funds to raise a transformational investment round and Newable look forward to continuing to support Sphere Fluidics as the business evolves.