Draper’s devices take on cell therapy’s pain points

Non-profit Draper is betting its microfluidic and acoustic devices will lower barriers to cell therapy manufacturing

Having surveyed more than 60 cell therapy developers on what keeps them up at night, The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory Inc. is building a suite of microfluidic and acoustic tools to overcome the inefficiencies that plague cell engineering.

Founded in the 1930s at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to engineer aeronautical instruments and spun out as an independent non-profit in the 1970s, Draper first moved into the life sciences via government defense projects.

Draper receives over $600 million per year in R&D contracts and grants from commercial and federal funders. In the last three years, the institute announced organs-on-chips collaborations with drug developers including Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (NYSE:BMY) and Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE).

Less visible is its growing roster of undisclosed partnerships aimed at reducing the cost, time, variability and sample loss inherent in commonly used cell therapy manufacturing protocols. The goal is to make it easier for more companies to develop cell therapies for a broader range of indications.

“We’re trying to overhaul how you make cell therapies,” said Jenna Balestrini, Head

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