10 Years Cytosurge

Successful journey of a Swiss nano-technology company
December 19, 2019 by
10 Years Cytosurge
Pascal Behr

“It all started with an idea, a great environment and two scientists dreaming of becoming their own bosses.” If I had to describe to you in one sentence, why Cytosurge was founded, this would probably be my elevator pitch. 

As we probably all have experienced, time has this very peculiar tendency to sometimes seem like it cannot go by fast enough – only to then wake up one day and realize that an entire decade has passed. An entire decade – an exciting timeframe full of adventure, challenges and numerous great team achievements for our company. With the conclusion of 2019 we are proud to celebrate the 10 years of Cytosurge and would like to use the occasion to look back at the early days of our venture. We have come a long way since we originally founded our company back in 2009 and I am very proud to share some of our highlights and challenges with you in this blog. 

2009 – Where it all started

Whenever engineers look at another field of research to find technology driven solutions to address some of the most pressing problems, interesting things can happen. This was also very much the case with Cytosurge. Coming from a background in force microscopy, material science and electrical engineering, Mike Gabi and myself were fascinated by the idea of using force feedback to better control and guide the movements of a micro/nano pipette, a truly well-established tool in the field of medicine and biology. Combining the advantages of atomic force microscopy with the capabilities and application areas of micro pipettes seemed to be a very interesting concept.

And yes, we have truly come a long way since our first publication appeared in the journal Nanoletters back in 2009. Motivated by the numerous positive feedbacks and inquiries from our peers in the scientific community, we decided that it was the right time to establish our own company with the vision to bring this new tool into the labs of scientists and research oriented companies around the world. We are very proud today to be able to say that we have 85 FluidFM installations spread across the globe and count some of the most prestigious corporations and academic institutions to our loyal and very active customer base. Over 70 high impact publications have resulted over the last few years and the story of FluidFM has truly only just started.

The beginnings in Technopark, Zurich

The beginnings in Technopark, Zurich

Office-built Vortex cannon – from fun to business, Technopark, Zurich

Office-built Vortex cannon – from fun to business, Technopark, Zurich

First prototype of the FluidFM microfluidics controller, 2011

First prototype of the FluidFM microfluidics controller, 2011

Winner of the ZKB Pionierpreis Technopark, 2012

Winner of the ZKB Pionierpreis Technopark, 2012

2013 – First commercial product launched with Nanosurf

We launched our first commercial product back in 2013 together with the renowned swiss AFM manufacturer Nanosurf – the FlexFPM system. When we created this product together with our partners at Nanosurf, our goal was to  re-invent how an AFM-based system is embodied and utilized by customers outside of the established AFM community. Featuring the first commercially available multi-touch user interface for an AFM, this product has truly set benchmarks and its legacy continues  to influence our current and future product portfolio. One might even say that the product was ahead of its time when it was initially launched. I would like to use this occasion to thank the entire Nanosurf team for venturing into this unknown new market with us, we truly achieved and learned a lot together!

Nanosurf Logo

2013 until today – Major achievements

In the time that has passed since then, Cytosurge has continuously been driving forward the maturity of our products and has carried out major investments to bring the quality of our products up to the level that is expected from a Swiss precision industry company. Luckily the days where it felt like every second probe did not function properly  are very much behind us.

 The inauguration in October of our own in-house cleanroom facility, where we can carry out all production steps under controlled conditions and with full traceability from supplier to customers, marks just one of the many milestones we have achieved on this exciting journey.

Cytosurge production

We are also very proud to announce that Cytosurge has recently acquired all IP rights related to FluidFM. The company now owns a comprehensive patent portfolio of 7 key technologies that form the basis of our core competences – an important prerequisite to continue investing into the development of FluidFM in the future. I am very proud that Cytosurge has managed to achieve this important milestone.

2018 – AFM partnership program

With the launch of our AFM partnership program in 2018, the company has established a highly successful framework to realize our vision of establishing FluidFM as a routine tool within the AFM community. Our partnership with several major AFM manufacturers around the world allowed us to bring FluidFM into many new labs in a way that allows our customers to leverage their existing AFM investments via tailor-made AFM ADD-ON packages. Thanks to our close collaboration with our AFM Partners Nanosurf and Bruker/JPK, we can now supply a very affordable FluidFM solution for many of their popular Bio-AFM platforms used in labs around the globe. The program has so far been a tremendous success – our customer base has grown more than double every year since we on-boarded our first partner and I am very excited to say that we plan to support many more AFM platforms in the future. Our work here has only just begun.

2019 – Where we are now, launch of FluidFM BOT BIO Series

What has also increasingly become clear over the last few years is our transition from a small “garage-like” two-man company to a well-established bio-nanotechnology company with over 600m2 of office, laboratory, QC and production space in our HQ in Zurich. Our business model of selling platforms and specialized probe solutions has been well received by our customers and we plan to bring it to many more exciting fields in times ahead. With the launch of our FluidFM BOT BIO Series line of products, we have entered a completely new market outside of the traditional AFM sphere and have already received great feedback from our customers for this step.

The FluidFM BOT BIO Series marks a comprehensive line of turnkey system solutions tailored specifically to solving some of the most pressing issues in the field of life sciences. The FluidFM BOT Bio Series builds on the experience that we have collected since our very first product launched in 2013, and we are very proud of what we have achieved.

A highly automated solution for cell-based research that allows our customers to miniaturize their established assays to the smallest possible element – the single cell itself. FluidFM enables single cell end-to-end workflows, marking a true paradigm shift in how cell-based assays can be carried out. Instead of pursuing an ultra-high throughput, top down approach, FluidFM addresses these challenges from the bottom up: Starting with a single cell and ending up with a single cell. FluidFM allows researchers to stop searching for the needle in a haystack and start directly with the needles in order to save precious time while skipping many laborious steps in the process required by traditional workflows.

Direct intra-nuclear delivery with FluidFM technology

To achieve this vision of a bottom up cell-based assay without the need for expensive high throughput equipment, the FluidFM BOT BIO Series has been developed over the last few years by considering the numerous feedbacks from the markets. We expect this range of products to contribute and push back some important boundaries in science for many disciplines such as genetic editing via CRISPR-CAS, cell line engineering as well as the exciting field of stem cell-based therapies in the future.

pEGFP-UHRF1 and pmCherry-TRIM21 co-injected into CHO-K1 cells with FluidFM

pEGFP-UHRF1 and pmCherry-TRIM21 (2 plasmids) co-injected into CHO-K1 cells. Nuclear expression of the human UHRF1 protein, cytoplasmic expression of the human TRIM21 protein.

Mouse primary hepatocyte injected with CRISPR-Cas9 RNP complexes

Mouse primary hepatocyte injected with CRISPR-Cas9 RNP complexes (nuclear injection).

CHO cell isolated with a FluidFM micropipette

CHO cell isolated with a FluidFM micropipette.

Cytosurge has matured into a well-established company. In order to succeed with the growth of our company in line with our exciting vision for the future, we must continue to use the same successful ingredients. Our company is a great place to work (the employees say it, not me!) and we are very proud about our agile mindset - from the very first draft for a new product, all the way through to supporting our customers when they work with one of our systems. Establishing a culture of trust in order to empower all our employees to achieve great results is key to this and I would like to thank the entire Cytosurge Team for the great work they have done over the last 10 years. Only when working together as a team, each one contributing to the best of his/her abilities, a key leading-edge technology as complex as FluidFM can successfully tackle the difficult journey from the engineering lab into the hands of our customers.

With this I would like to conclude my short trip down memory lane and invite you to become a part of our journey, both as a customer or a future member of our team. In 2020 we plan some special activities and announcements to celebrate our first 10 years together with you. In the meantime, I would like to thank you all very much for your support as an investor, a customer, a member of our team or just by giving us feedback and asking us some critical questions at the right time. 😊 Without all of you, our company would not be at the point that we are now and we are very grateful to be able to continue writing the success story of FluidFM technology together with you.

Happy Birthday Cytosurge!

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Pascal Behr, CEO

Cytosurge team