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Automated, Standardized Cell Thawing

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BioCision, LLC recently announced that they received the Instrument Business Outlook’s (IBO) Gold Award for its ThawSTAR™ automated cell thawing system. This automated thawing system addresses the last gap in the cell cryopreservation workflow: cell thawing. Replacing common methods of cell thawing that are not standardized and potentially jeopardize the integrity and safety of the sample - ThawSTAR™ ensures rapid, consistent and reproducible thawing.

To discuss why automated cell thawing is an important step forward and the impact the ThawSTAR™system has had so far we spoke to Eric J. Kunkel, PhD, Senior Vice President, Research and Development, BioCision LLC.

JR: ThawSTAR™ recently won 1st place (Gold) from Instrument Business Outlook (IBO) in the laboratory equipment industrial design category. Which features of this product did IBO highlight when announcing the award? 

EK: ThawSTAR™ was awarded gold from IBO due to the following attributes:

• The system takes a novel approach to scientific instrument design with its small round footprint and intuitive buttonless and touchscreen-free operation. It features a "modern and sleek appearance” approaching a "zero user interface” scenario.

• It’s a new kind of instrument; this important technology has not existed until now and it replaces outdated, potentially contaminating and subjective methods such as water bath-based thawing.

JR: What challenges did you have to overcome when designing the ThawSTAR™ system?

EK: Like any new product – let alone a new technology – we faced many challenges in the development process. Our close proximity to Silicon Valley enabled us to work with some of the world’s best engineering and design firms to overcome these challenges and present a product that is small enough to tuck into a biosafety cabinet workflow and yet still be powerful enough to customize the perfect thaw for each vial.

JR: Why is standardisation in cell thawing an important step forward in cell cryopreservation?

EK: Thawing is the last step in a cell cryopreservation workflow, and could be the last and final step prior to patient administration of a cell therapy drug. This step is extremely important for research and therapeutic applications such as (stem) cell therapy and the process has been overlooked over the years or has not been developed for PoC, with even clinicians still thawing in warm water baths or in their hands. These manual process are high risk areas for contamination and are subject to each technician’s interpretation and hence can impact the potency, efficacy or safety of a “live" therapeutic. The data we have collected so far from in house and external studies has indicated there is a high variability in water bath-based systems and other manual methods, and the ThawSTAR™ platform reduces that variability and makes the thawing outcomes more consistent, reproducible and standardized.

JR: How have your customers received ThawSTAR? Did you expect it to have such an impact?

EK: We expected excitement around this new technology, but the rapid adoption and global interest has been more than we ever could have predicted. In the short few months ThawSTAR™ has been available, it has already been widely adopted by research labs both in academic and industry settings, as well as integrated into a number of clinical trials. As we expand the ThawSTAR™ portfolio to accommodate other sample formats, we expect to see even broader adoption.

Eric J. Kunkel, PhD was speaking to Jack Rudd Editor for Technology Networks.