A start-up based in Cambridge, U.K., is hoping to become the Microsoft of cell therapy, thanks to an innovative approach to 3D printing. BiologIC Technologies, founded earlier in 2019, hopes to democratize the manufacture of therapies like CAR-T with a factory-in-a-box able to run multiple cell therapy workflows and small enough to sit on a laboratory bench.
“We’re hoping to develop an ecosystem—a standardized platform on every bench and in every lab,” explained BiologICs co-founder Nick Rollings. “If you look at the computing revolution, the PC enabled that, but there’s nothing like that in life sciences.”
The company, which is currently self-funded, already has a virtual prototype of their factory-in-a-box. They also showed GEN a prototype of one of the cartridges that will fit inside the box.
The cartridges, said Rollings, combine milli-fluidic and micro-fluidic “circuits” that can run multiple cell therapy “programs.” Unlike typical lab-on-a-chip devices, they don’t intend to use mass production techniques to create the cartridges, but rather novel 3D printing techniques.
“Our differentiator is using 3D printing to fabricate systems in a brand-new way,” noted Rollings. “To give a parallel, life science automation today is analogous to the electronics industry in 1958 when systems were made up of multiple separate components such as valves and transistors. Bob Noyce created the first integrated circuit by integrating and miniaturizing these in a new way.”
He described their platform as being similar to a PC, but—rather than running software like Excel or Word—it will run customized “physical firmware.” This differs, Rollings claimed, from existing companies who are using 3D printing to improve the production of existing equipment, such as chromatography columns.
“To our knowledge, we don’t think there’s anyone else thinking about this, in this way,” said Rollings, an engineer by background. He hopes their technology can help democratize and decentralize the production of cell therapies, such as CAR-T, allowing them to reach a wider range of patients.
The fledgling company is currently talking to angel investors and venture capitalists around Cambridge. They hope to launch a first round of seed funding in the first half of next year.