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Exploring Flow Electroporation for Cell Engineering

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Cell engineering has numerous applications, from cell modification for cell-based therapies to the production of therapeutic antibodies. One method to modify a cell genome is to use electroporation – an electrical charge that increases the permeability of the cell membrane – to introduce DNA or other small molecules to the cell.


MaxCyte has pioneered a cell engineering platform to accelerate the development of cell-based therapies, small molecule drugs and more.

In a recent interview, Technology Networks spoke to Dr. Cenk Sumen, chief scientific officer of MaxCyte, about the applications of cell engineering and how flow electroporation technology can support cell engineering from small- to large-scale operations.


Katie Brighton (KB): Can you highlight some of the applications of cell-based therapies?

Cenk Sumen (CS): Cells are the starting point for many emerging therapies. In some cases, the cells act as factories, producing monoclonal antibodies and other therapeutic proteins used to develop treatments.


In cell-based therapies, the cells are the treatment. CAR T cells, for example, are used to treat hematological cancers. For musculoskeletal and neurological disorders, stem cells show great promise in regenerating lost tissues. Various cell therapies are being developed to treat muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and many other diseases.


KB: What are the benefits of using an electroporation approach to cell engineering over viral or chemical methods?

CS: Electroporation is an efficient and safe process. Cells are placed in a conductive solution and a brief electrical pulse "relaxes” cellular membranes, allowing DNA, RNA or other molecules to enter.


Electroporation simplifies payload transfection into almost any cell type and is suitable for both transient (temporary) and stable (permanent) expression. This process is high-performance and scalable, with unmatched post-transfection cell viability, has a very low supply chain risk and is designed to modify cells for research or clinical use.


The MaxCyte electroporation platform enables small-scale research and development through large-scale cell engineering and is safer and can be more cost-efficient than viral or chemical transfection methodologies.


KB: How does flow electroporation® technology work? How is it applied within the ExPERT platform?

CS: The MaxCyte ExPERT platform provides the electroporation instruments and consumables to run each experiment, and the unmatched technical support of our field application scientists to ensure that each experiment runs smoothly. With its unique solution to problems of scale, flow electroporation® technology enables the development of innovative medicines in the quantities required for the clinic.


In cell and gene therapy, the platform is used to deliver the critical nucleic acid payload to engineer the patient’s cells. The engineered cells are then transplanted, either to the same donor (autologous transplant) or to one or more recipients (allogeneic transplant) to treat disease. Flow electroporation® technology meets the stringent demands of cell and gene therapy: GMP, highly efficient, reproducible, nontoxic transfection, payload flexibility and clinical scale manufacturing.


The platform is also at the core of cell engineering for drug development. In bioprocessing and monoclonal antibody production, for example, cells are grown in bioreactors, then MaxCyte flow electroporation® technology is used to engineer the cells to produce recombinant protein. The scalability and flexibility of MaxCyte flow electroporation results in lower cost, less labor and shortened timelines during protein production.


MaxCyte instruments support electroporation of diverse payloads and cell types in a range of cell quantities from millions to hundreds of billions.


KB: How does the ExPERT platform support cell engineering from concept to the clinic?

CS: ExPERT instruments and processing assemblies support cell and gene therapy applications from early-stage research to commercial GMP manufacturing.


The VLx instrument offers our largest scale for bioprocessing applications and can electroporate up to more than 200 billion cells.


KB: MaxCyte’s flow electroporation technology is being used in multiple clinical trials; can you give us an insight into how flow electroporation technology is being applied within these trials?

CS: We support our collaborators throughout their development journey, helping to optimize workflows, lower risk and develop cost-effective solutions. Our flow electroporation technology will be used in early-stage development, during clinical trials and ultimately in the manufacturing of the cellular therapeutic that will be used to treat patients. Some of our partners are close to the commercialization of their therapeutics and MaxCyte is thrilled to be part of their success.


KB: What does the future look like for MaxCyte?

CS: We are excited for the future, particularly the impact we can have on patient access to novel treatments. The cell and gene therapy space is experiencing favorable regulatory trends and a high demand for novel therapies in expanding fields. MaxCyte is ideally positioned to help researchers progress from concept to clinic. We are here to help save lives. That’s what drives us, and we will keep working to support our partners to make this vision a reality.


Dr. Cenk Sumen was speaking to Katie Brighton, Scientific Copywriter for Technology Networks.