August 31, 2017

Exploring the Cell Sorting Marketplace

An Interview with Dr. John Sharpe, CTO of Cytonome

Cytonome develops and manufactures advanced solutions in cell purification for industrial, clinical and life science research markets. In an effort to disrupt the industry, they introduced three state-of-the-art cell sorting technologies: Viva, Hydris and GigaSort. We spoke to CTO John Sharpe about what Cytonome is, what has transpired in the past few years and where he expects Cytonome and the industry in general to go.

Interviewer: First off, what does Cytonome do and how do you go about it?

Dr. John Sharpe: Our company was established in 2009 and now develops cutting edge cell sorting tools. We invest a great deal of time developing our toolbox of technology to mix and match and solve real world problems. We are really a boutique engineering firm shifting from a product focus to an emphasis on solving problems by investing in innovative technology. We have undergone growth as a company, specifically in engineering. Our large R&D team is highly skilled in microfluidics, optics, electrical and mechanical engineering to allow us to have a broad systems approach.

Interviewer: A few years ago, Viva, Hydris & GigaSort were first being introduced, and now you’re structuring partnerships with companies to sell them. How does it feel to be at this point?

Dr. John Sharpe: It is very exciting for the Viva, Hydris and GigaSort to each have a specific home and purpose. For Viva, our distribution partnership with Thermo Fisher is a recognition of what we aimed to do all along and how hard we have worked. We have established a partnership with a premiere pharmaceutical company who will use the GigaSort in their cell therapy manufacturing process. We are excited about our Genesis product, which is part of the Hydris family, and our industrial partner as they grow globally and the product increases performance and gains efficiency. Overall, we are in a strong position to think strategically about opportunities for current tools, but also invest in new technology to push the cell analysis space further with announcements and new products to come in the future.

Interviewer: How are your cell sorting products unique or game changing to the industry?

Dr. John Sharpe: We take pride in providing very application specific products, while other companies are fixed in developing generic scientific grade, high cost instruments. For example, Viva is one of the most inexpensive and compact cell sorters on the market, but it can operate as efficiently and as effectively as other, more expensive instruments. Cytonome has also grown as a company. We have both the depth and breadth that we have not had before which opens us up for more and more opportunities.

Interviewer: Can you tell me a little about some key features of GigaSort?

Dr. John Sharpe: What makes GigaSort so powerful is its high efficiency, speed and sterility. The enclosed multi-channel microfluidic chip technology enables high throughput through parallelism while maintaining a gentle environment for the cells. In the future, we have enhanced throughput in mind and hope to work closely with collaborators for specific uses of GigaSort, especially in cell therapy purposes where speed and sterility is vital.

Interviewer: Who would you say is your target user for each of the products?

Dr. John Sharpe: GigaSort was developed with academic & clinical researchers in mind, but it is becoming more evident that the Pharma industry needs similar tools to fulfill their scale of demands for cell therapy applications. Viva is for users who would not otherwise have access to cell sorting technology. The point is to allow these users to have easy to use, but powerful tools in their own lab. Hydris is meant to drive productivity and efficiency gains in bulk through its industrial cell sorting applications.

Interviewer: What does the future hold for Cytonome and the industry in general?

Dr. John Sharpe: We are going to continue to identify key areas and platforms to continue our growth. That is going to be made possible by enabling broader technology to improve our productivity and workflow. Of late, Cytonome has continued to grow in engineering and is becoming more specialized. We are approaching 100 employees and contractors. We are also shifting more to a design and manufacturing company. As the different markets that our products occupy each continue to grow, as they have in recent years, we are going to be challenged to offer more scientific, industrial and medical applications for our products.

Interviewer: What are Cytonome’s goals?

Dr. John Sharpe: Being ISO Certified, we want to ensure that our processes are operating in a world class manner. We emphasize following Good Manufacturing Practice throughout production to ensure that each instrument is of the highest quality. Moreover, growing continuously and moving to our new facility in Bedford means that we aim at thinking smart in house as opposed to externally. In addition, through strategic consideration, we want to ensure that we are investing wisely long term.

About Dr. John Sharpe

Dr. John C. Sharpe is the Chief Technology Officer of Cytonome. He has over two decades of experience in developing and commercializing advanced cellular analysis and purification technologies that utilize advanced biophysics principles. Dr. Sharpe is recognized in the flow cytometry industry as a key member of the development team for the MoFlo high speed cell sorter, and as the program and technical lead on the CyAn high performance analyzer system. John has led multiple product development and commercial initiatives in a range of companies, and has been responsible for due diligence studies in a number of corporate acquisitions.  John holds a Ph.D. from The University of Waikato, New Zealand.