Taking the next step in cell culture

Félix Lavoie-Pérusse is co-founder and Chief Commercial Officer of Saguaro Technologies. He tells Lu Rahman why the company wants to make drug discovery more successful with its next-generation technologies in cell culture.

Saguaro partners with drug discovery scientists to convert potentially disruptive technologies into valuable cell culture products. These products aim to either help scientists adapt high-fidelity models such as organoids to the high-throughput workflows of drug discovery or they help generate new data that can be more predictive of results in clinical trials. The ChromaLive non-toxic dyes are one example of that. These dyes help users monitor the biology of cells in a way that has never been possible before, says FélixLavoie-Pérusse, co-founder (pictured). A bitlike the cell-painting method, they can help with phenotypic classification of screened compounds and help measure multiple ell states simultaneously. They also allow‘indefinite’ assessment of live cells.

LR: What will this product help scientists achieve and how do the dyes make drug discovery more successful?

FLP: They will improve the understanding of the biology of cells, and the response of these cells to perturbing agents. Extracting more information from lab-grown disease models (ie. cellcultures) helps de-risk the costly process of sending a compound into animal or clinical testing. It can help catch issues that may arise only later in the drug development process.

LR: You’ve described Saguaro as offering‘a unique business model’ that ultimately leads to commercial products for drug discovery scientists – can you elaborate on this?

FLP: Our approach is focused on a combination of strengths and methods that ultimately puts emphasis on innovation transfer management. We promote a proactive user-centric approach: we make it a point to work on technologies that fit our user profile (drug discovery scientists), and to develop products according to their needs.We also partner with world-leading researchers, the brightest minds in the field, to develop the best technologies and offer scientists products that will propel breakthrough discoveries. Saguaro has a strong background in technology commercialisation. Our strength is in converting cutting-edge technologies into valuable commercial products for drug discovery. And finally, we identify poorly addressed market needs (ie. strong limitations for scientists) and technologies with disruptive potential, and work on acquiring and further developing these technologies with the leading researchers who have invented them.

LR: In what ways can you help drug discovery scientists get to market faster and more efficiently?

FLP: In addition to the ChromaLive dyes, Saguaro develops cell culture products that serve the same purpose of enabling the use of more predictive cell culture models earlier in the drug discovery process, and ultimately help de-risk this process altogether. Currently, Saguaro is working on the AlphaMatrix hydrogel for defined3D cultures, and the PrimaFeed medium for primary tumour cells, in an effort to help scientists use high-fidelity culture models at a larger scale.

LR: What advice can you give to start-ups based on your own experience?

FLP: Solve big problems that matter. Launching is risky, but if your purpose is clear tough moments are much easier to get through. Also, find great co-founders. It can be one, it can be two, but finding the right co-founders is extremely important. They would need to share the same vision so that the team pushes in the same direction. Having complementary strengths is an obvious one but having a similar background shouldn’t be underestimated. Be surrounded by experts. It’s especially true in a cutting-edge scientific field such as drug discovery. Innovations often happen at the intersection of different niched disciplines. The combination of artificial intelligence tools with analytical techniques in cell biology, such as compound profiling using high-content imaging, is a good example of that. Being able to connect the dots from those different disciplines can generate a lot of value. Also, we like saying at Saguaro that nothing really worth it was ever accomplished alone.

Volume 23, Issue 2 – Spring 2022

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