The pitching session at Knowledge for Growth 2018 gave a select number of start-ups a chance to present their company to a top panel of potential investors. The winner of this year’s pitch awards was Stephan Stremersch, from the UGent spinoff project TrinCE. The future of TrinCE, just like their light-based technology, looks bright!
Shining a light on cell transfection
TrinCE is an early stage start-up, developing a device capable of delivering different compounds into cells. The business case is developed by: Dr. Stephan Stremersch, Dr. Toon Brans, Prof. Dr. Kevin Braeckmans and Dr. Daisy Flamez (coordinator of the BIOMARKED IRF consortium), all affiliated with Ghent University. The name of the company divulges the function of their platform technology; TrinCE stands for: Transport into Cells.
Within a densely populated cell culture we can transfect single cells, leaving all neighbouring cells untouched."
The technology itself will allow researchers to quickly and accurately deliver cargo into cells. This includes so-called ‘hard-to-transfect cells’, such as primary cells, neuronal cells and T-cells. Stephan Stremersch explains: “TrinCE develops a cell transfection technology that uses laser-light to induce transient pores in a cell membrane. Molecules surrounding the cells can then migrate through those pores into the cell's interior where they can exert their biological or pharmaceutical function and alter the cell's behaviour.”
Cells in the spotlight
Cell transfection, a portmanteau of trans- and infection, is an important technique critical for virtually all biotech innovations. There are a few different ways of transfecting cells, but Stremersch says that none of the current methods have the capability of being as safe and precise as the TrinCE technique.
“One of our major selling points at TrinCE is our targeted approach. Within a densely populated cell culture we can transfect single cells, leaving all neighbouring cells untouched. In the tissue engineering field, the complexity of cell cultures is expanding, using multiple cell types at once. In certain stages, the aim is to deliver functional molecules to a single cell population, without affecting the other cell types. Today, there is not such targeted technology available. The TRinCE technology provides a solution to this unmet need.
TrinCE develops a cell transfection technology that uses laser-light to induce transient pores in a cell membrane. Molecules surrounding the cells can then migrate through those pores into the cell's interior where they can exert their biological or pharmaceutical function and alter the cell's behaviour.
Another major application for the TRinCE technology is going to be in cell therapy. CAR-T cell therapy, for instance, is a booming business that requires transfecting T-cells. Current transfection methods are either ineffective for T-cells or have a low cell yield, as they induce high cell toxicity. Thanks to the TRinCE technology being efficient and safe, our research shows that we can achieve much better results.” Says Stremersch.
The future looks bright
TrinCE is still in the process of founding their promising company. So far, they have raised 620K euros in non-dilutive, valorisation-oriented funding, through VLAIO grants and the Industrial Research Fund (IOF).
“It is a good start. It has allowed us to do a lot of development already within the walls of Ghent University. The next step is now to begin our first round of fundraising, which we will start in September this year. We aim to launch TRinCE in the 3rd or 4th quarter of 2019.”