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SBIR Phase II: An Automated Platform for Rapid Discovery in Cell Biology

Award Information
Agency: National Science Foundation
Branch: N/A
Contract: 1853194
Agency Tracking Number: 1853194
Amount: $948,152.00
Phase: Phase II
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: BT
Solicitation Number: N/A
Solicitation Year: 2017
Award Year: 2019
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2019-03-01
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2021-02-28
Small Business Information
501 Massachusetts Avenue 3rd FL The Engine Accelerator
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States
DUNS: 080721427
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: Yes
Principal Investigator
 Paulo Garcia
 (443) 799-3072
Business Contact
 Paulo Garcia
Phone: (443) 799-3072
Research Institution

The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project is to develop a fast, efficient, and scalable cell engineering technology that is easily automated through integration with liquid handling robots. Currently, there is a bottleneck in the process of cell engineering, especially in the engineering of cells for discovery of new therapeutics. The field of delivery of genetic or other material to cells has not kept pace with advancements in genetic modification and high-throughput screening technologies. The proposed platform will offer an alternative to the time-consuming and labor-intensive methods of transfection including lentiviral transduction and cuvette-based electroporation, which are difficult to automate. Applications of cell engineering technology range from fundamental research in cell physiology to the discovery of new targets for cellular therapies. The platform will allow scientists and clinicians to more rapidly and reliably engineer immune and other cells for discovery of new therapeutic targets and therapeutics. The intellectual merit of this SBIR Phase II project will be to develop a scalable, automated, non-viral cell engineering platform with the potential to operate up to 10,000 times faster than conventional electroporation using high-throughput liquid handling. Using the core cell engineering technology developed in Phase I, the goal is to develop an automated protocol for gene transfection on a liquid handling robot compatible with 96 or 384 well plate technology. The first objective is to demonstrate the manufacturability of cell engineering devices for high-throughput cell engineering. Preliminary work in this area has shown that these devices can be injection molded, thus reducing cost while increasing the potential for production at scale. In the Phase II project, injection molded prototypes of the cell engineering devices will be developed to prove manufacturability and determine the cost to manufacture at scale (millions of parts per year). Second, there are several supplemental systems that must be integrated with a liquid handling apparatus to enable the proposed high-throughput cell engineering. Supplemental systems include a power source and power distribution manifold that interacts with each sample of the 96 or 384 well array. In this project, these systems will be integrated with the cell engineering devices and automated liquid handling robot. Third, the integrated system will be used to generate a large library of primary human T cell variants as proof-of-concept to demonstrate the potential for high-throughput cell engineering for therapeutic target discovery. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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