Fidelity Biosciences and Flagship Ventures Back Maker of Smaller, Cheaper Cell Analysis Machines

Xconomy Boston — 

Accuri Cytometers sees the day coming when every biomedical research lab has a flow cytometer—a high-speed cell analyzer—as a basic tool, alongside microscopes and petri dishes. The company took a step toward its goal today, raising $13 million in a third-round venture financing led by a pair of Cambridge, MA-based venture firms, Fidelity Biosciences and Flagship Ventures.

Accuri, based in Ann Arbor, MI, will use the capital to expand sales and service of its C6 Flow Cytometer System. The product, which began shipping in February, is mounting a challenge against the market leading FACSCalibur machine made by Becton Dickinson.

Indeed, Accuri sees a much different marketplace shaping up for flow cytometry, a technique once used in only very big—or very well-funded—research labs. The Accuri machine weighs in at about 30 pounds, and covers about two square feet of counter space, while the competition hits the scale at about 300 pounds and takes up 13 square feet, says Jack Ball, Accuri’s Chief Commercial Officer. Instead of showing up in a crate at a loading dock, Accuri’s instrument can be carried to the door by the FedEx guy. And the really big difference? Accuri sells its machine for $35,000 to academic labs and nonprofits, compared to a $125,000 list price for the FACSCalibur, Ball says.

“Our goal is to see flow cytometry proliferate so every lab can have it, like a PCR machine or a microscope, and it’s impossible at the higher price point,” Ball says.

Accuri, being a private company, doesn’t disclose its sales. So far, researchers at University of California San Diego, UC San Francisco, Harvard, and the National Institutes of Health have bought the newer device. Becton’s response has to been to come out with a new machine, called FACSCanto, which has more capability than its smaller rival, yet costs about $150,000, Ball says.

“By making flow cytometry technology more affordable, accessible and usable, Accuri’s high performance systems have the potential to accelerate and broaden the scope of biomedical research,” said Bahaa Fam, a venture partner with Fidelity Biosciences, in a statement.