SciKon innovation was founded in 2009 and is a life sciences company that supports the preclinical pharmaceutical, environmental and chemical industries with a variety of innovative tools. Their flagship product is the SciFlow 1000 Fluidic Culture System which is designed to mimic in vivo like conditions. In addition to the SciFlow 1000, SciKon Innovation provides contract research services, specialty media and cells.
I had a chat with Mike McCartney, the COO of SciKon Innovation and Steve Klose, Director of Sales and Marketing about their flagship product and the trends in microfluidics.
Can you tell us more about the SciFlow™ 1000 Fluidic Culture System?
SciFlow™ 1000 Fluidic Culture System is a novel 96-well in vitro fluidics culture system that seamlessly integrates with your laboratory workflow. It is a simple system where gradients can be established between cell culture wells over time connecting multiple organ systems and monitoring downstream metabolite effects.
In the SciFlow 1000 Fluidic Culture system, we have a 96-well plate where wells are connected and consists of 8 rows that can be used for testing multiple compounds with multiple concentrations. First, the cells are cultured in wells similar to static plates. Then, drugs/toxins/exogenous materials are added to the source (left side) and flow is driven by gravity downhill across the plate. So, the result is a gradient exposure of parent and metabolite compounds that can be used for toxicology and efficacy studies. The result is a system designed to mimic how your body metabolizes drugs.
The SciFlow 1000 system is designed to mimic in vivo like conditions enabling the evaluation of the compound’s effects in a human biology relevant fashion.
What pain points are you trying to address in the market?
Steve: Let me paint a picture of the pharmaceutical industry today with respect to the research and development of drugs. When you look at the drug pipeline, it takes about 10 -15 years for FDA approval in the US and can cost anywhere from $2-5 billion which is a lot of time and effort. If you look at the funnel, it starts out with 10,000 compounds and gets whittled down very quickly. A lot of the drugs fail due to efficacy or toxicology in the pipeline. This is partly a result of in vitro models not being predictive enough and the reality doesn’t play out until animal or human studies are completed. This can be devastating for small and large companies alike.
Mike: If you look at the economics behind that statement, 89% of drugs fail and that is very costly. The two biggest reasons are efficacy and toxicology. The economic challenge is to identify toxic or ineffective drugs early on and have them fail fast. There is no sense spending $200-$300 million and finding out later in animal studies your drug can not continue. Also, Europe and the rest of the world is moving away from animal testing quickly and our system is well-adapted to address those needs. Those are the economic pain points we are trying to address.
What is the uniqueness of your product?
1) Improved Cell Health and Viability: Cells cultured in a fluidic environment are healthier and show increased viability over extended periods of time. Dynamic flow creates a more in vivo like environment.
2) Gradient Exposure: Simultaneously interrogates multiple compound concentrations over the course of the experiment.
3) Parent/Metabolite Discrimination: Open access to all cellular compartments allows for identification and quantification of all metabolic products.
4) Multi-Organ Capabilities: Different cells and tissues can be cultured in interconnected wells allowing metabolites and conditioned media to flow downstream for more biologically relevant compound exposure data.
5) Broad Compatibility: It can be used for culturing, exposing, and analyzing cells. It is compatible with plate readers, high content imagers, multi-channel pipettes, and a broad array of laboratory automation equipment.
Other than toxicology studies, what are the other avenues that can be exploited with the SciFlow system?
Metabolism, cell signaling, infectious diseases and oncology. In infectious diseases, resistance of the cells to the drugs can be learned over time. We can also grow tissues right on the plate and tests can be performed within each well. Another nice advantage of our system is the ability to link organ systems together. We think of this as mimicking human physiology. You can culture intestine cells in the first 5 wells and then you can culture hepatic cells in the next 5 wells and effectively mimicking human physiology much better than in a static plate.
How is your market and are you partnering with anyone?
We have been in contact with 75% of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world and they are in various stages of adopting the SciFlow 1000. The reason is our customers see big advantages over static plates. The ability to connect wells with different tissues and cells and fluidics are the main driving forces. Currently, we are partnering with InvitroCue in Singapore because of their scientific expertise and their position in the infectious disease area.