On-Q-ity CSO Walt Carney talks about CTCs in Drug Discovery Today

On-Q-ity CSO and Interim President, Walt Carney (right). Example of size-selective gradient chip design (left).

Thanks to Bruce Booth for mentioning this article in Drug Discovery Today by Walt Carney, Chief Scientific Officer and Interim President of On-Q-ity.  We’ve covered On-Q-ity before, so it’s great to hear more of their story unfold.  My thoughts on the article:

1. Limited uptake of Veridex CellSearch due to low sensitivity could be an opportunity for later entrant microfluidic competitors: On-Q-ity is competing against a non-microfluidic product already on the market (Veridex CellSearch) in addition to emerging microfluidics-based competitors. The article explains that the CellSearch has not seen widespread uptake due to low sensitivity. High sensitivity is important to make the test meaningful in early stages of cancer where treatment has a better chance of success. Microfluidic tests have the potential for higher sensitivity, but they’ll have to prove themselves with strong data to overcome any physician skepticism associated with the CellSearch product.

2. Microfluidic design enables increased sensitivity via antibody-based capture and size selectivity: In the past couple years, On-Q-ity has demonstrated that size selectivity combined with microfluidic EpCAM capture is important for capturing a larger number of CTCs, potentially boosting the sensitivity of their test compared with Veridex.

3. Not all microfluidic designs incorporate size selectivity: However, just because a design is microfluidic, doesn’t mean it automatically incorporates size selectivity. Earlier we heard that Veridex licensed CTC-capture technology from MGH (which also licensed technology to On-Q-ity). While it’s not clear which technologies have been licensed to Veridex, MGH’s next-generation herringbone chip (for example) doesn’t appear to be size selective. According to Daniel Haber, the main advantages of the herringbone mixer design are ease of production and scale-up for manufacturing.

4. The licensing of CTC technology from MGH to two competing companies raises questions about models for academic/industry partnerships: Lately there’s been a growing trend for large biomedical corporations to purchase innovation out of academia instead of developing it from scratch in-house. For a company with limited resources (e.g., a startup), what strategy should they take when licensing a technology, especially if the academic group continues development in parallel and may license next generation technology to competitors?

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