I am a scientific researcher with background in chemistry, physics, and materials science with principal focus on microfluidics and microfabrication engineering. I was fortunate enough to be selected by PSL (Paris Sciences et Lettres) to participate in Ignite (2017). Back then, we had an idea then of a low-cost device or technique for determining the strength of surface interactions – a technology that had potential applications in the coatings and formulations industry. The technique was based on microfluidics – fluid manipulation at a microscale – and was a major result of my first post-doc.
My main goal with Ignite at the time was to gain training to develop my entrepreneurial conviction. As a scientist, I desired to learn the necessary tools to make that transition from science to business. We had a scientific idea that needed refining but I lacked the insight into transforming it into a business.
After Ignite, I continued on a second post-doc to further develop my microfluidics and microfabrication engineering expertise until 2019 by working on different applications related to soft materials, such as particle deposition, emulsion dynamics, rheology, polymer gel synthesis and deformation.
Ignite taught me the prerequisites (the checklists as well as the risks) I needed to understand and learn when starting a business from scratch, especially when making that transition from any scientific idea to a business idea. Regardless of what your technology is, Ignite invests their time and effort in their participants to ensure that concepts are distilled, workshops are hands-on and practical and the overall experience memorable. Before Ignite, for me, the very idea of setting up a start-up seemed like a longshot but after Ignite, that idea did not seem foreign anymore.
Fast forward to 2020 and me and my co-founder Antoine Espinet, set-up our start-up, MicrofluidX. The application is entirely different from the one I had presented at Ignite 2017 but the scientific technology behind is still based on the principles offered by microfluidics. This time we leverage the power of microfluidics and small-scale phenomena to overcome the challenges of bioprocessing in the production of cell and gene therapies. Its novel technology facilitates process development by running multiple cell culture conditions in parallel with precise process control and enables seamless scale-up for manufacturing at a fraction of the current costs.
Our company has secured £1.4m seed funding from leading seed investors UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund (UKI2S), Longwall Ventures and Moulton Goodies Ltd with contributions from 88 Capital and Cambridge Angels. We have also been awarded an Innovate UK SMART grant to further develop the R&D behind cell viability and production in microfluidics-based bioreactors.
The funding enables the company to build a working prototype that can be used to generate comparative biological data between this new microfluidics-based platform and conventional single-use technologies. MicrofluidX technology addresses the key issues in cell and gene therapy such as cost-of-goods, batch variability, and scalability from discovery to commercial.
Our company has since been accepted to the Accelerate @ Babraham Programme and we have set up business at the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst (SBC) in Stevenage as well as laboratory facilities at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield.