Don Seiffert BioFlash Editor- Reprinted from Boston Business Journal, Nov 5, 2013
Cell separation startup to have experiments done on space station
A Beverly startup working on an improved way to isolate cells for research is planning to do its next experiment more than 200 miles away – straight up.
Quad Technologies LLC, a MassChallenge company founded last year, has received a grant worth about $1 million to study the effects of microgravity on the manufacture of its separation technology on the International Space Station.
Brian Plouffe, the company’s chief scientific officer and one of its two full-time employees, explained that the company makes so-called magnetic microbeads, which are about 40-60 microns in diameter. Such microbeads have been used for decades in cell separation, such as to isolate stem cells in human blood. While the exact method to make them is proprietary, Plouffe explained that it’s similar to the way water drips from a faucet. Quad’s focus is to make a type of microbead through its QuickBead platform that dissolves after separation, leaving the cells themselves unharmed, in order to minimize the number that stick to a cell and can alter experiments.
Plouffe says that diameter plays a critical role in a microbead’s magnetic strength efficiency, and that by studying how they can be manufactured on the space station will help him develop better ways of making them on Earth. “We will learn more about how beads are made in general. We’re basically eliminating a large burden of trial and error (by conducting the experiment in space),” he said.
Quad is one of eight projects to get $7 million in grants from the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, through the MassChallenge Startup Accelerator. The money from CASIS covers all direct costs to develop and engineer the project equipment for space flight, any subsequent analysis, as well as the cost of transporting the payload to and from the ISS, and all costs of the scientists on board the ISS. Plouffe said he and Quad’s CEO, Sean Kevlahan, are both graduates of Northeastern University, and have raised about $125,000 from friends and family to date. He said they plan to seek sales and marketing help from larger companies in the industry so they can continue to focus on the science of the product. The company is a 2013 MassChallenge startup, and is located at the North Shore InnoVentures at the Cummings Center in Beverly. www.nsiv.org