Local Start-up Company Takes Option for University Flow Cytometry Technology

STC.UNM and local start-up company Sandia Electro-Optics Corporation (SE-OC) are pleased to announce they have signed an option agreement for new technology created at the University of New Mexico that will increase the cell analysis rate for flow cytometers by using parallel analysis streams. SE-OC was recently formed by CEO Michael J. Cumbo. SE-OC’s goal is to develop, manufacture and sell optically enabled instrumentation for the life science and environmental sensing markets. The company will use its expertise in telecom-grade electro-optical component technology to develop the next generation of low-cost, optical-based instruments for these markets.

STC CEO Lisa Kuuttila welcomed the company’s interest in developing the technology. “With New Mexico’s standing as the place for continuing innovations in flow cytometry technologies, we feel fortunate to have this partnership with SE-OC in developing parallel flow cytometers that will be affordable and especially useful in analyzing low-levels of circulating tumor cells and larger cell structures such as tumor microspheroids and small multicellular organisms.”

Commenting on the assistance that SE-OC has received from STC.UNM, Dr. Cumbo said “STC is an excellent partner for a high-tech start-up company such as SE-OC. During our formative months here in Albuquerque, Lisa’s team opened our eyes to the abundance of innovative product concepts being incubated in and around the UNM eco-system, and provided us with many helpful networking introductions. This easily cut a year off of the launch phase of our company.”

Dr. Cumbo, who holds a Ph.D. in optics from the University of Rochester, has more than 30 years of experience in the optics and photonics industry and was formerly President of IDEX Optics & Photonics, which, under Dr. Cumbo’s direction, grew in revenue from $20 million to $200 million in less than four years. IDEX’s technology businesses include ATFilms, CVI laser Optics, Melles Griot Lasers, Melles Griot Optical Systems, Precision Photonics Corporation and Semrock. Dr. Cumbo also held executive positions at high-tech start-ups NanoGram Solar, Raydiance, and Bin Optics.

The UNM technologies were created by Dr. Steven Graves and Dr. Andrew Shreve from the Department of Chemical & Nuclear Engineering and the Center for Biomedical Engineering, and received $25,000 in gap funding this year from STC’s gap-fund program. The inventors have designed a parallel analysis system for use in flow cytometers. The system uses multimode acoustic standing waves that focus particles and cells into multiple parallel streams that can support up to 37 distinct particle flow streams simultaneously with parallel optical detection across the flow streams. Acoustic wave focusing is particularly useful in parallel analysis because it can be used for a wide range of cell and particle sizes in a single device. The goal of the researchers is to create a high-throughput parallel flow cytometer prototype that will push the current analysis rate of 50,000 cells/second to 100,000 cells/second using 10 flow streams. But they believe they can push that rate even higher with a future goal of over 1,000,000 cells/second. The key to accomplishing this achievement lies in coupling their parallel focusing technology with their parallel optical detection technology. Flow cytometers are routinely used to diagnose blood cancers but have many other applications such as biomarker detection, drug discovery, genetic testing, and chemotherapy drug resistance testing. The new technologies could lead to parallel flow cytometers with high analysis rates that not only benefit current flow cytometry based on high throughput screening but also significantly improve rare-cell clinical applications, such as analysis of fetal cells in maternal blood for prenatal diagnosis, which requires analysis of billions of cells. Best of all, the new technologies will lead to a new parallel flow cytometer that is as inexpensive as current conventional flow cytometers.

During the next few months, SE-OC plans to work closely with Dr. Graves and Dr. Shreve on market validation and the assessment of several business models for commercializing the high-throughput technology. According to Dr. Cumbo, “The entire life science instrumentation industry is experiencing a substantial wave of consolidation through mergers and acquisitions. The economic pressures facing the publicly held consolidators is forcing them to reduce risk and focus on quarterly results in part by tightly controlling their internal R&D expenditures, thereby creating opportunities for small, nimble start-ups to take the lead in developing next generation instruments and solutions. This is our opportunity to create value for life science customers.”

About Sandia Electro-Optics Corporation (SE-OC)

Sandia Electro-Optics Corporation is a new, privately held business devoted to the development and commercialization of innovative measurement instruments in the life science and environmental sensing market segments. SE-OC’s vision is to create an employee-owned enterprise that will bring the compactness and reliability of telecom-grade electro-optical component technology to the next generation of low cost-of-ownership instruments in these market segments. For additional information, contact Founder & CEO Michael J. Cumbo at (505) 503-9359 or mjc@SE-OC.com.


STC.UNM (STC) is a nonprofit corporation formed and owned entirely by the University of New Mexico Board of Regents (UNM). The mission of STC is to support UNM and its partners as the source of innovation management and commercial development. STC’s vision is to play a vital role in New Mexico’s economic development and to assist with technology commercialization worldwide. The organization focuses on transferring technologies that have been developed at the university to the marketplace by identifying the best commercialization partners, protecting the technologies through patents and copyrights, and assisting entrepreneurs with access to facilities, expertise, and research.

Source: STC.UNM


Erin Beaumont
(505) 272-7912