Thinking big & building small: Sarcura bags grant for miniaturized cell therapy platform

Sarcura has secured a €1.7m ($1.8 million) grant from FFG, the Austrian Research Promotion Agency, to develop a miniaturized and autonomous cell therapy manufacturing platform.

Millie Nelson, Editor

March 12, 2024

2 Min Read

The Austrian tech startup said it will use the grant to further advance the development of its SiPlex (Silicon Photonics Multiplexed) chip, which mixes various cell sorting structures by deploying silicon photonic technology on the size of a stamp.

“The grant is allocated for the advancement of Sarcura's SiPlex chip, with the aim of achieving a higher sorting rate and integrating a new multiplexed control circuit, bolstered by data analytics and machine learning techniques. The SiPlex chip stands as the cornerstone of our inaugural product, encompassing the entire cell isolation process—ranging from a Leukopak starting material to a purified target cell population,” Sarcura co-founder and CEO Daniela Buchmayr told us.

Sarcura said the decision to shift from operator control to machine-generated real-time analytics enables the company to progress automation into machine autonomy through its silicon chip technology. According to the firm, the chip can develop specific microfluidic cartridges for control requirements and processing of cell therapy production.

“The shift from the large-scale computers of the 1950s and 60s to today's tiny yet potent mobile devices we carry in our pockets was driven by advancements in semiconductor technology. Sarcura applies the same fundamental principles to cell therapy manufacturing. Our debut device will zero in on cell sorting,” said Buchmayr.

“FACS, a method extensively utilized for the identification and sorting of target populations, necessitates parallel processing to fulfil the throughput demands of the typical (chimeric antigen receptor) CAR-T process. The component that limits space, thereby hindering, for instance, the implementation of 16 parallel FACS systems on a compact footprint, is the optical system. Through Silicon Photonics, a revolutionary technology in data centers and sensors, we can shrink 16 FACS units onto a chip the size of a coin. In essence, we employ semiconductor technology and microfluidics to shrink established paradigms. We take every unit operation step, each process analytical technology (PAT), and quality control step, and shrink them.”


While Sacura acknowledges cell therapies hold “the promise” of curing various diseases, the company said its manufacturing challenges remain a problem for the industry. The firm referred to quality and scalability issues as a driver to the significant price tags attached to the therapeutics, which results in poor patient access.

“This evolution permits the transition from manual human oversight to machines capable of interpreting human-set objectives into actions independently, without human intervention. Such systems can adapt to the specific patient-derived material at hand rather than adhering to a one-size-fits-all approach. If our goal is to manage hundreds of thousands to millions of autologous products in the future, then autonomous machines with minimal spatial requirements are the solution. This approach is backed by precedents in other industries, just think of the implementation of drones in delivery services,” Buchmayr said.

About the Author(s)

Millie Nelson

Editor, BioProcess Insider

Journalist covering global biopharmaceutical manufacturing and processing news and host of the Voices of Biotech podcast.

I am currently living and working in London but I grew up in Lincolnshire (UK) and studied in Newcastle (UK).

Got a story? Feel free to email me at [email protected]

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