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Culture for growth
RENO, Nev.—At LabAutomation 2009, Hamilton Co. and life sciences newcomer Global Cell Solutions (GCS) jointly announced the availability for shipment of the BioLevitator, a bench-top mammalian cell culture system that uses GCS's core Global Eukaryotic Microcarrier (GEM) technology, which the company says improves morphology and phenotypic expression compared with other cell culture methods.
Further, the BioLevitator, which contains four separate and independently-controlled, high-density cultures, was designed to integrate with Hamilton's existing STAR automation platform which would make it easier for researchers to perform high-throughput cellular assays.
For GCS, the collaboration is the first step of getting the four-year-old company's products to market.
"I think we found our engineering and manufacturing partner with Hamilton," says Uday Gupta, president and CEO of GCS. "We have a three-prong approach. The first part was to solidify our relationship with Hamilton. The other part is working with the reagent companies with the understanding that sales are driven by applications, and we are looking at applications not just at the cell culture side but where we use the cells in downstream processes."
For Hamilton, the attraction to GCS was the potential to integrate a unique technology with its existing automation platforms.
"Hamilton has distribution channels that are already established and we are going to leverage these to be able to sell the BioLevitator as well as the GEMS technology," says Jason March, dealer products business unit manager for Hamilton.
In order to create buzz for the technology, both companies plan to place a select number of instruments at "thought leaders" working in pharma, biotech and academia to put the BioLevitator and GEMS through its paces.
"GCS can't do all the research, so the goal is to get some of these well-known people using their technology and recommending it to others in the industry," March notes.
"2009 is about getting the word out of the benefits of 3D cells cultures so there is not only independent validation of the technology, but also a way to educate [researchers] about the benefits of 3d cell culture," says Gupta. "Intuitively, they understand the benefits of 3D, but they really need to do it in practice."
While exact terms of the deal were not disclosed, it is clear both companies feel the BioLevitator is a leap forward in cell culture technology. According to information released by the companies, the tool uses magnetic beads as substrate for growing cells, while a magnetic field keeps the beads in suspension. Used in conjunction with Hamilton's STAR automation platform, BioLevitator creates a single system to manage media exchange, cell plating and liquid handling for cell-based assay processing.
Hamilton STAR will also aid in moving the cells, once the culture has produced the number of cells required by the researcher, and will transfer the cells for use in cell-based assays. It can either add trypsin to remove the cells from the beads, add compounds to dissolve the beads or transfer the cells while still attached to the beads.
The result is the elimination of a number of steps that will save researchers time when culturing cells and designing cell-based assays. What really sets BioLevitator apart is the GEM technology, which consists of microspheres embedded with magnetic particles that can suspend and manipulate anchorage-dependent cells. The result is a robust medium for cell culture.
"We have had much better success with stem cells and other difficult-to-grow cell lines using the GEM technology," says March.
Further, the timing for coming to market and serving the growing demand for cell culture and cell-based assays, could hardly be better.
"I think the timing is impeccable," says Gupta. "Are we clairvoyant? I'm not sure, but the timing is absolutely ideal for a small company like Global Cell to be going to market." DDN