Maximilian Ottosson, Co-Founder & CEO
Poor concordance between in-vitro to in-vivo experiments is one of the major challenges that life-science researchers are facing these days, due to insufficiency of the in-vitro models available to test efficacy or toxicity of new drug candidates before initiating clinical trials. Cellevate, a biotech company founded in 2014 based on research performed at Lund University has been developing a product line for 3D cell culture, the 3D NanoMatrix™, to replace cell culture on a two-dimensional surface such as the petri dish, by researching and developing a unique technology for production of a type of nanofibrous, non-woven material. Cells cultured on flat surfaces tend to adopt a flat shape that’s never found in the body where roughly 50 percent of the cells surface area is in contact with the culture surface. This part of the cell effectively becomes unable to take up nutrients, excrete waste products or interact with neighboring cells. To this end, the company utilizes nanofibrous scaffolds that mimic the structure of the collagen and elastin fibers that make up connective tissue, and that enable cells to proliferate, migrate, and interact with one another in three dimensions, while simultaneously maintaining a spherical, in-vivo like morphology.
When cells are cultured in such a more in-vivo like environment, they tend to behave more naturally with regards to properties such as how they differentiate, express specific genes, proteins and biomarkers, and metabolize certain drugs.
Maximilian Ottosson, founder & CEO of Cellevate explains that the scaffold structure also provides a higher surface area per volume for cells to interact with and attach to, which allows for higher cell densities and longer experimental times before cells division reaches confluency. Since the growth time of the cell has increased, it enables researchers to investigate phenomenon previously not possible due to limited experimental time. An example is new expression profiles of particular cytokines in pancreatic cancer cultures which differed greatly between the control and 3D NanoMatrix™.
Although most researchers are aware of the availability of new tools, the market as a whole is still hesitant to adopt these, one of the reasons being fear of alteration in the users’ workflow. Cellevate’s product line sticks to the SLAS footprint for cell culture consumables, making them compatible with most standardized laboratory equipment, and a lot of effort has gone into assuring the impact on workflow is minimal. To lower the threshold for new users to evaluate the products for their own applications, Cellevate has developed protocols for common standard experimental procedures, which are readily available on the company website.
Cellevate’s 3D NanoMatrix™ offers a platform for users to base their own cellular models on, and has been successful especially in the fields of neurology and oncology where customers have been able to, for example, set up complex co-cultures from patient-derived iPSCs or using cancer, stromal, and different types of immune cells. “Cellevate’s solution is scalable, reproducible, and flexible with our products remaining easy to use and holding a consistently high quality, while being available at a reasonable cost,” says Ottosson.
The success instance of Cellevate are plenty. The company helped a Swedish oncology professor at Lund University by setting up a three-dimensional breast-cancer model, which allowed her to co-culture her cells in a more in-vivo like manner, and also culture the cells in fetal bovine free medium. In another instance, the company helped a pharmaceutical company in Germany in developing a disease-relevant cellular 3D model based on astrocytes and neurons generated from iPSCs for the study of psychiatric diseases. Cellevate’s products provided an efficient matrix for studying neurons and astrocytes in a tissue-like environment.
Having been in the industry for more than five years, the company is renowned for the quality of its 3D NanoMatrix™ products. Recently, ranked on LSX list of top 50 Nordic private companies 2019 and being named one of Sweden’s 33 most exciting start-ups in 2018 and 2019 by the prominent tech-magazine NyTeknik, Cellevate is ready to foray unexplored territory of material production technology and new geographical markets.