In sounding out the best ways to manipulate calls for therapies, experts will offer different opinions, but some would mention acoustic technology. That is surely the case for MilliporeSigma, which is headquartered in Burlington, MA. Last month, MilliporeSigma announced its acquisition of FloDesign Sonics, another Massachusetts-based company, and one that developed an acoustic cell-processing platform. In bioprocessing, MilliporeSigma envisions a variety of tasks for this technology.

“Our initial efforts will focus on developing the technology for use in autologous cell-processing applications, such as CAR-T,” says Andrew Bulpin, PhD, head of process solutions. “In CAR-T, using acoustics for critical parts of the cell processing workflow can help to close, automate, and simplify these unit operations, ultimately driving higher quality and process efficiency.”

This acoustic platform, called ekko, can already replace some bioprocessing steps, but more lie ahead. The ekko platform “is designed to replace all concentration and washing unit operations, such as washing apheresis products, as well as media and buffers used up until final harvest,” Bulpin explains. “Further products are in development and can ultimately address many aspects of cell bioprocessing.”

Riding the wave

To move fluids and cells, the ekko uses an ultrasound transducer and reflector. This combination creates a low-power standing wave in a flowing fluid.

“When cells or other acoustically responsive particles enter the standing wave, they can be captured, concentrated and separated based on physical parameters, including size and density,” notes Bulpin. “In many cases, the acoustics can be tuned to achieve different desired outcomes.”

That tuning can build new opportunities into bioprocessing. “Without the use of high forces or physical barriers, such as filters, the technology provides flexibility and control that allows for a wide range of yields, processing times, or input and output concentrations,” points out Bulpin.

Tuned for expansion

Bulpin believes that acoustic methods can replace a variety of bioprocessing techniques. “In the concentration, wash and formulation steps, the system competes with various types of manual and automated centrifugation or spinning membrane filtration,” he says. “Future developments will work to utilize acoustics with antibody-based reagents that will compete with magnetic-bead separation systems.”

Working with CAR-T processes will just be the start. Bulpin says similar methods can be applied to therapies based on induced pluripotent stems cells, natural killer cells and more, in both autologous and allogeneic formats. To see what lies ahead, stay tuned to the waves.