Akadeum Life Sciences: Transforming Early-Stage Technology Development

Have you ever found yourself questioning the status quo, wondering why things are the way they are, or contemplating the possibilities that lie beyond the norm? In a world filled with routine and conformity, there’s a compelling reason to challenge the status quo and embark on a journey of revolutionary change.

These questions reverberate through the groundbreaking journey of Brandon McNaughtonFounder and CEO of Akadeum Life Sciences. As a tech entrepreneur, scientist, and visionary, his career has been a testament to pushing the boundaries of possibility in early-stage technology development.

Dr. McNaughton’s story unfolds in the realm of cell separation, a critical but often overlooked facet of research. Frustrated by existing methods’ poor performance, cost, and time constraints during his postdoc, he sought a transformative solution. The result? Microbubble Cell Separation —a process similar to processes used in industries like automotive and food and beverage but reimagined for the biotech frontier.

As the Founder and CEO of Akadeum Life Sciences, Dr. McNaughton’s commitment to problem-solving shines through. His journey began at the University of Michigan, where he earned his Ph.D. in Applied Physics and formed interdisciplinary teams that garnered acclaim for their innovative approaches.

Before founding Akadeum, Dr. McNaughton served as an Entrepreneur in Residence at Detroit Innovate and a Research Scientist at the University of Michigan. Today, his work extends beyond the confines of the laboratory as he imparts his knowledge to the next generation through the entrepreneurship practicum at the UM Center for Entrepreneurship.

Akadeum Life Sciences, under Dr. McNaughton’s leadership, stands as a beacon of innovation. Microbubble Cell Separation a Method, born out of frustration and a commitment to progress, marks a paradigm shift in the biotech landscape. His unwavering dedication to solving problems, not just identifying them, has propelled Akadeum to the forefront of transformative technology development.

This is more than a story of a CEO and his company; it’s a journey of redefining possibilities, challenging norms, and paving the way for the future. Dr. McNaughton’s journey exemplifies that true breakthroughs often arise from challenges and in those moments, the seeds of transformative change are sown.

Below are the highlights of an interview with several key leaders and stakeholders at Dr. McNaughton’s company:

Success Through Cross-Functional Brilliance

In the pursuit of addressing challenges that had stumped even the giants, Akadeum recognized the importance of learning from the failures of other behemoth companies. With strategic foresight, they curated a cross-functional team of scientists to embark upon a journey to solve a problem that had eluded solutions. The “secret sauce” behind this remarkable endeavor lay in the amalgamation of diverse scientific expertise. This extraordinary team, led by Dr. McNaughton, innovated and propelled technology to new heights, replicating the success of other Industries and achieving the same transformative impact in cell separation. They emerged as orchestrators of success, seamlessly combining vision, innovation, and cross-disciplinary brilliance to navigate uncharted territories.

Advancing Cell Therapy Manufacturing

With a keen understanding of the industry’s frustrations with existing practices, Akadeum addressed the awareness among customers regarding the limitations in scale and bottlenecks that hinder meeting market needs.

In their narrative, they emphasize the critical realization that legacy approaches, while once considered the norm, now hinder processing efficiency and compromise the therapeutic efficacy of cells. They note the ripple effect on diagnostics and research, where similar challenges persist but manifest differently in priority. However, amid these challenges, Akadeum shines as a harbinger of positive change, offering three distinctive features designed to address market deficiencies.

Akadeum’s microbubble kits present a breakthrough in cell therapy manufacturing. These kits enable the processing of an unprecedented number of cells and achieve this without subjecting cells to harsh chemicals, metals, or magnetic fields. The next step in the evolution of Akadeum’s innovation is their AlerionTM, a novel Microbubble Cell Separation System, highlighting an ability to expedite processes and enhance throughput, thus meeting the industry’s imperative for speed and time savings—a boon for the industry and the therapeutic developers it serves.

A final layer of Akadeum’s offering is their scientifically trained support team. This team stands ready to advocate for and guide therapeutic developers. This support, combined with the flexibility of its platform, ensures that developers can effortlessly optimize a workflow for their unique needs. Hence, Akadeum is not just as a solution provider but a collaborative partner in advancing the future of cell therapy manufacturing.

Cell Sorting with Elegance and Efficiency

Akadeum seamlessly combnies antibodies and streptavidin-biotin linkages, with their cutting-edge microbubble-based sorting technology to boldly pave the way for the next generation of cell therapy products. Its revolutionary approach propels the industry forward in a departure from conventional methods, leaving its magnetic counterparts trailing in the metaphorical dust.

Incorporating established identification techniques and pioneering microbubble sorting marks a paradigm shift in the field. Its commitment to a time-tested method, enhanced by microbubble technology, streamlines processes and redefines industry standards. By utilizing standardized antibodies and streptavidin binding, Akadeum expedites adoption and diminishes the need for identifying alternative antibodies, ultimately reducing the time required for optimization.

Unlike traditional magnetic systems reliant on well-defined and potent electromagnetic fields and microfluidic methods dependent on precisely calibrated flow, microbubbles operate under the influence of a universal force: gravity. This game-changing characteristic allows microbubbles to scale seamlessly to any volume without substantial effort.

In this transformative shift, microbubbles emerge as potential workhorses, to revolutionize sample preparation. They elevate processing scale, truncate overall processing time, and deliver healthier cells for downstream applications. Gone are the days of clunky magnets and intricate microfluidic setups—Akadeum’s microbubble technology offers a solution that combines efficiency with elegance, thus redefining the future of cell sorting.

Microbubbles Emerge as a Game-Changer

Three traditional methods utilized in cell separation—flow cytometry, density-based centrifugation, and magnetic sorting—have been widely used. However, each method carries distinctive drawbacks, prompting many therapeutic developers to explore microbubble-based separation as a potential alternative.

Flow cytometry, while effective, is a laborious and time-consuming process. Despite its ability to isolate distinct cell populations, its drawbacks necessitate the development of more efficient alternatives. Microbubbles have emerged as a solution that can process orders of magnitude more cells in a fraction of the time compared to flow cytometry.

Density-based centrifugation methods, such as Ficoll gradients, suffer from time-consuming protocols, low yields, low purity, and a lack of scalability. In contrast, microbubbles offer rapid processing, high-purity isolation, excellent recovery, and the capability to be applied to large sample volumes.

The Akadeum team acknowledges the specificity and ability to isolate a wide range of targets offered by magnetics. However, magnetic isolation is limited to only the volumes and sample sizes appropriate for each size of the magnet, requiring numerous setups for processing larger or smaller samples. Therefore, microbubbles outpaces magnetics by offering comparable benefits without equipment limitations, positioning themselves as superior options.

Breakthrough Technology

Microbubbles, paired with antibodies, are essential to Akadeum’s process. These antibodies tether targets to the microbubble’s surface, efficiently separating them from non-target components, such as unbound cells, chemicals, proteins, and nucleic acids. The target cells are then easily floated to the top of the sample by the microbubbles, which are small, gas-filled microspheres that float – a simple yet effective method.

Akadeum’s microbubbles possess a specific density that facilitates the elevation of multiple cells in a heterogeneous mixture. The stable silica shell ensures the structural integrity of the microbubbles, preventing any unwanted rupturing.

The simplicity and effectiveness of Akadeum’s microbubble technology make it a game-changer in cell separation, opening new avenues for streamlined and gentle processes in life sciences research.

Microbubble Approach

Akadeum’s innovative microbubble technique for cell separation can overcome technical obstacles and improve efficiency over existing procedures.

The microbubble technique developed by Akadeum provides a means of resolving issues related to non-specific binding, making it possible to capture targets with low abundance successfully. Interestingly, the gentle nature of the microbubble workflow is acknowledged as highly beneficial, particularly when working with delicate targets that could be lost or harmed when utilizing conventional approaches like magnetics.

The introduction of the AlerionTM Microbubble Cell Separation System takes cell separation workflows to new heights, surpassing legacy methods like magnetic-activated cell sorting (MACSTM) and fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) instruments. Akadeum’s new instrument provides unmatched scalability and productivity, showcasing the ability to process more healthy cells per isolation all with significantly reduced time frames.

Advancing Cell Separation

The limitations of conventional cell separation techniques, such as MACSTM and FACS, emphasize their potential harm to cells and inherent lack of scalability and adaptability. Researchers and cell therapy manufacturers are seeking a novel approach that can be adapted to different cell types and workflows for some time.

In contrast, microbubbles present an alternative that relies solely on gravity and buoyancy, eliminating excessive forces during separation. This gentle approach minimizes potential cell damage, leading to a higher yield of viable cells. Akadeum, with its microbubble technology, stands out in cell separation, offering unparalleled scalability and maintaining cell health.

The recent introduction of Akadeum’s AlerionTM Microbubble Cell Separation System exemplifies the company’s commitment to empowering scientists and cell therapy developers. This cutting-edge instrument enhances scalability, efficiency, and flexibility in workflows. Compatible with major processes used by cell therapy developers, the AlerionTM eliminates bottlenecks and reduces costs. The combination of Akadeum’s innovative microbubble solution and the AlerionTM instrument provides researchers and cell therapy developers with an innovative tool for their evolving needs.

Collaboration with Agilent Technologies

Recently, Akadeum Life Sciences and Agilent Technologies formed a strategic alliance for a ground-breaking method for detecting viral DNA/RNA in wastewater. Beginning in 2019, the partners began developing a community-level wastewater surveillance method to provide early warning capabilities for new infectious diseases by utilizing Akadeum’s cutting-edge buoyancy-based technology. In doing so, Akadeum’s novel microbubble platform overcame the limitations of previous magnetic bead-based systems.

Gentle Approach to Isolation

Akadeum’s innovation emphasizes gentleness, in contrast to older technologies like FACS and MACSTM, which require equipment that can create harsh environments for cells. The columns in MACSTM and the fluidic systems in FACS force cells through narrow passageways, exposing them to shear stress that can change cell behavior or cause serious harm. Furthermore, research indicates that the intense magnetic fields in magnetic cell isolation systems can negatively impact the health of cells.

In contrast, Akadeum’s technology utilizes gravity to delicately float targeted cells to the sample’s surface. This gentle approach preserves cell functionality for downstream applications. Furthermore, eliminating the need for application-specific equipment, which might limit throughput, sets Akadeum apart. Their solution allows processing a wide range of sample sizes without compromising isolation efficiency.

Cell-Based Therapy Manufacturing

In its quest to revolutionize cell-based therapies and mitigate the burdens of cancer, Akadeum Life Sciences is forging ahead with novel approaches. When asked about the company’s future endeavors, the team provides an insightful glimpse into the company’s strategic initiatives.

They emphasize Akadeum’s commitment to addressing the staggering financial and human toll of cancer. The company goal is to enhance manufacturing and development processes of cell-based therapies, particularly those associated with CAR T cell therapies, which can cost upwards of $500,000 per patient.

Akadeum’s flotation-based cell separation platform is poised to significantly reduce manufacturing costs and the vein-to-vein time for patients. The company has achieved a noteworthy milestone by offering kits manufactured under current Good Manufacturing Processes (cGMP). However, the real excitement lies in the imminent launch of fully clinical-ready kits, greatly enhancing end-to-end CAR T cell manufacturing solutions.

The upcoming Clinical Ready products are versions of the Human T Cell Leukopak Isolation Kit, the Human T Cell Selection, Activation, and Expansion Kit, the Human T Cell Depletion Kit, and the Monocyte Negative Selection Kit. These kits are anticipated to elevate Akadeum’s capabilities in providing comprehensive solutions for CAR T and CAR M cell therapies.

Akadeum’s ambition extends beyond T cells, recognizing the promising potential of various cell types in the realm of cell-based therapies for cancer and other diseases. With an eye on solid tumors, the company is actively developing products tailored to new cell types. The versatility of the microbubble platform positions Akadeum as a driving force in empowering researchers to enhance their cell therapy manufacturing processes.

As Akadeum navigates the intersection of science and medicine, its dedication to advancing cell therapy manufacturing remains its focus. The company’s strategy envisions a future where fully clinical-ready kits, coupled with an array of products catering to diverse cell types, propel Akadeum to the forefront of the evolving landscape in life sciences.

Client Testimonials

  • Cell isolation advancement has been minimal over the last four decades, even though needs have been rapidly evolving. Akadeum microbubbles are a rare and refreshing innovation in cell separation. With the microbubble leukopak isolation kits, we have been able to isolate more cells in a way that’s faster and easier than ever before. We pride ourselves on providing the best quality products and solutions for our research partners, and tools like Akadeum’s microbubble isolation kits help us deliver on our mission. – CDMO (Raleigh, NC)
  • Akadeum products support a staggering range of applications within life sciences, health care, and biotechnology. They provide gentle and efficient separation, helping ensure reliable and reproducible results. The microbubble technology allows therapeutic developers to isolate high-yielding, pure, viable, and functional cells. It is flexible, fast, and user-friendly. – C&GT Consultant
  • We routinely use Akadeum Microbubble Technology to separate RBCs from the PBMC layer of human blood. We started using the Akadeum Microbubble technology when we encountered PBMCs that were not separating from RBCs as expected when using lymphocyte-separating media. By using Akadeum’s Microbubble Technology, we can obtain samples with PBMCs containing less than 1% RBCs. The procedure is easy to use and highly effective in depleting the RBCs from the PBMC layer and leaves no Microbubbles in our samples. – Academic Research Lab (Tucson, AZ)
  • One additional day of life for a person who is terminally ill makes all the difference in the world to them and their families. Your solution can make that difference for them. We are still not saving the lives of the average person. Cell therapy needs to be available to the masses and to developing countries. Akadeum is helping make that possible. – Therapeutic Developer (Los Angeles, CA)

Accolades and Recognition:

In 2023, Akadeum received several notable awards, cementing its status as a trailblazer in the industry:

  • Pharma Tech Outlook Magazine’s Top Biotech Start-Up Company of the Year: Recognizing Akadeum’s exemplary contributions to biotechnology.
  • Fast Company Best Workplaces for Innovators: Acknowledging Akadeum’s commitment to fostering innovative and diverse work environments.
  • Best of Ann Arbor: Celebrating Akadeum’s excellence and positive impact in the Ann Arbor community.
  • Fast Company Most Innovative Companies: Highlighting Akadeum’s position as one of the most innovative companies, solidifying its influence in the business world.

These testimonials and awards collectively illustrate Akadeum’s transformative role in cell isolation, validating its commitment to excellence and innovation.

A brief background on the Featured Leader:

An award-winning scientist with over 15 years of experience working with magnetic beads and nanoparticles. His experience includes developing new types of particles, separation, and biosensors. Brandon brings previous startup experience in the life sciences and venture capital industries. He is also a recognized expert in customer discovery and using human-centered design for high-technology applications. Before Akadeum, he served as an entrepreneur in residence for Detroit Innovate, an early-stage venture fund facilitated by Invest Detroit. He also founded and served as chief technology officer of venture capital-backed startup Life Magnetics. He earned a Ph.D. in applied physics from the University of Michigan.

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