May 2, 2023

Celldom: Leading the Next Generation Single-Cell Analysis

Liankai Zhang

A Brief Overview of the Cell-Based Assay Industry

Cell-based assays refer to a method of analyzing living cells based on various parameters. These assays measure cellular or biochemical functions and are utilized by pharmaceutical companies, academic research institutes, biotechnology companies, government institutions, contract research organizations, and more. Essentially, functional cells serve as diagnostic tools in new drug research.

Over the past decades, as the prevalence of chronic diseases and lifestyle disorders like cancer and diabetes has risen, so has investment in drug research and development. However, traditional drug R&D seems to have hit a snag. A staggering 88% of all drugs fail in clinical trials, primarily due to efficacy issues. The average cost of successfully introducing a cancer or immunology drug to the market is $2.7 billion, a hefty price tag. Furthermore, even FDA-approved treatments for cancer do not guarantee the disease's non-recurrence. What's needed is an efficient platform for testing cell-based drug responses, capable of studying single cells on a vast scale. This need largely drives the global Cell-Based Assays Market.

Cells, the basic structural and functional units of life, vary immensely. This cellular diversity is crucial for understanding physiological and disease processes. For instance, the presence of drug-resistant cells in tumors might lead to cancer recurrence. Identifying, isolating, and examining these cells can take months, hampering the early stages of drug candidate identification.

Enter Celldom, a budding biotech startup. By integrating live cell biology with high-resolution genomics, Celldom hopes to revolutionize cell-based therapy optimization. Their potential in the life science sector is immense.

Introducing Celldom

Celldom specializes in creating platforms for the efficient, cost-effective isolation of single cells. These cells can then be cultured, imaged, and DNA-sequenced. Adopting a "razor and blade" model, they market a consumable chip and a machine to load cells into these chips for further analysis.

Celldom's offerings include a platform, machine, and consumable chip. Their platform, adopting the "razor and blade" model, comprises a machine and a consumable chip. This machine facilitates the loading of cells into individual chambers on the chips. Subsequent activities include live imaging and cell lysis for genomic sequencing. Made of silicon (though future models may use glass or polymer), the consumable chip features 6,000 specially designed chambers and "tunnels." This design uses microfluidic technology, allowing each chamber to house a single cell efficiently.

Real-time imaging becomes possible once cells are chambered, providing insights as they are cultured and treated with drugs. Post-experiment, each chamber's unique RNA tag allows specific cells of interest to be lysed and sequenced.

Thanks to Celldom's unique microfluidics and chamber design, cells can be loaded in a cost-effective, efficient manner. A single experiment can simultaneously analyze up to 100,000 loaded cells.

TSVC's Perspective

TSVC, with its focus on potential-rich startups, especially in deep tech, sees promise in Celldom.

The future belongs to personalized medicine, with single-cell biology playing a pivotal role. Physicians can test multiple drugs on cell cultures to gauge efficacy before administering them, targeting drug-resistant cancer cells. Given the significant market potential and recent successful IPOs by companies like 10X Genomics ($21B) and Berkeley Lights ($5B), Celldom is poised for success.

Compared to 10X Genomics and Berkeley Lights, Celldom offers a more comprehensive, better solution, incorporating live single-cell biology, real-time imaging, and genomic sequencing. Their technology enables users to conduct up to 100,000 parallel experiments, significantly faster and cheaper than existing methods.

Currently, Benjamin Yellen, a mechanical engineering professor turned full-time CEO, leads the company. The other co-founder, Kris Wood, a Professor of Cancer Biology at Duke, serves as the Chief Scientist.

In conclusion, despite limited resources, Celldom has made significant strides. Their technology, a game-changer in single-cell biology, stands out in a market with immense potential. TSVC believes that Celldom's innovative approach has the potential to outpace its competitors.


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