BioWorld International Correspondent

SpinX Technologies SA raised €10 (US$12.5 million) in a Series B funding to continue development of its programmable microfluidics platform. The company will unveil its first prototype at the Society for Biomolecular Screening meeting in Geneva next week.

SpinX was established in 2003 by its head of corporate development, Bart Van de Vyer, and head of research and product development, Piero Zucchelli, both former researchers at the CERN European particle physics laboratory in Geneva. The company, also in Geneva, is attempting to adapt a central paradigm of microelectronics to life sciences research.

"Just as transistors in electronics make programmable processors possible, the same role is played by valves in microfluidics," Van de Vyer said. "The equivalent operation in fluidics or microfluidics is to close or open a valve."

By incorporating billions of transistors in a device, chip designers can achieve greater levels of flexibility and programmability. SpinX's valve comprises a thin film that separates channels and reservoirs within its microfluidics card. That can be burned off with a laser to allow fluid mixing in a controlled manner.

"The easiest thing to compare it to is a CD burner," Van de Vyer said. Like CDs, its plastic cards rotate around a central spindle, generating a centrifugal force that maintains fluid flow. The geometry of the rectangular-shaped cards is compatible with wells in microtiter plates. The devices can be loaded with robotic systems and pipettes already marketed. The cards are loaded into a bench-top instrument, which sets up assays according to software-defined protocols and provides a readout once the assays have been performed.

Van de Vyer said the entire process takes three hours and accomplishes a week's work for a laboratory researcher. The company is positioning its technology as a generic front end for biological assays. The company sees an initial opportunity in areas in which large numbers of assays need to be set up manually. It is focusing on research groups conducting multiple biochemical assays on hundreds or thousands of lead molecules identified via high-throughput screening. Within that field, it will concentrate initially on those conducting enzymatic assays that involve a fluorescent readout.

The company does not plan to compete with existing microfluidics players, but instead aims to grow the overall market. "The real competition" is micro-titer plates, Van de Vyer said. Its new injection of cash will enable it to establish manufacturing of its cards with a partner and to conduct initial marketing.

The lead investor in the round was Bio Fund Management, of Helsinki, Finland. The company's seed and Series A investor, Index Ventures, of Geneva, invested again, and other participants included Auriga Partners, of Paris; DFJ ePlanet Ventures, of Redwood City, Calif.; and the CERN pension fund.

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