Since the early 2000’s, before Solexa sequenced bacteriophage phiX-174, single cell genomics has been tipped to become one of the most exciting technologies in genetic analysis.
First on the scene were Fluidigm, with their C1 Single-Cell Auto Prep. That technology effectively utilised novel microfluidic circuits; versions of the same technology are still at the forefront of a revolution that is still going strong 15 years later.
There is a reason that single cell has become such a hot topic. Sequencing the DNA of individual cells (instead of a mix of cells in traditional sequencing) gives us a much better insight into cellular functions and gene expression.
Cancer is one of the biggest applications of single cell and billions of research dollars are already being spent on oncology research.
But single cell is well positioned to positively impact what we know about neurology, autoimmune and infectious disease too, among others.
Recently, we’ve seen one player dominate. 10x Genomics, led by Serge Saxonov, who are at the forefront of the single cell revolution and have established themselves as the current market leader.
Privately held, 10x has raised nearly $250 million in funding and is posting annual revenues of nearly $150 million. In the single cell space, every genetic research lab has heard of them and, from a hiring standpoint (recruiter’s hat on here), they’re right at the top of many genomic candidate’s wish lists as an employer.
But if 10X are leading the way at the moment, who are the chasing pack?
As with every genetics market, there are always challengers emerging, threatening to make that next explosive scientific or technological breakthrough.
One new player, Mission Bio, have taken to the market with a storm. Led by Charlie Silver, Mission Bio managed to go from product development to commercialisation (in late 2017) in one round of funding, a feat rarely achieved in biotechnology.
Since then a further $30 million has been raised to help further their expansion.
Mission’s Taprestri platform sorts thousands of cells into individual droplets, enabling thousands of simultaneous reactions. This means that genetic disparities are not overlooked and could have a range of healthcare applications, such as selective therapies and better disease monitoring.
Ultimately, tech like this is going to be the foundation of precision medicine in the clinical space.
This exciting technology is also backed up by Mission’s board, which is full of seasoned leaders from the genomics space.
Celsee inc, (formally Celsee Diagnostics) led by John Stark, was founded in 2011. Their Genesis system went commercial this year and is creating a lot of excitement amongst single cell enthusiasts.
Celsee’s slide technology means that their system can be used to analyse millions of cells at the singular level using a novel, gravity based, method to isolate cells.
Like Mission Bio, Celsee has raised funding (around $12 million in total) and has a board full of big names from the translational research space. One to watch in their first commercial year.
Someone else to keep an eye on is Menarini Silicon Biosystems.
Headed up by seasoned leader Fabio Piazzalunga, Silicon Biosystems became part of the Menarini group in the early 2010’s and has been going from strength to strength since.
Their system uses microelectronics and microfluidics to isolate rare cells. The DEPArray system is currently being used in Oncology research, circulating tumour cells. So, the potential gains here are huge. This kind of technology could also have direct applications in the clinical/diagnostic space.
Well backed and well funded, MSB’s expansion is not slowing and they are starting to gain market share quickly.
The latest advances in microfluidic technology mean that single cell genomics is becoming faster, cheaper and a more exciting proposition.
Whilst it’s hard to predict the future of this market, what’s for certain is that there will be a future. We’re at the beginning of a wave for this technology and I’m sure I’d be able to follow up on this article in another 12 months with another 10 new businesses.
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