A study by the TU/e departments of Electrical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering has shown that if you subject biological cells rapidly to very high-capacity electrical fields, they will divide more quickly. Out of that study came the TU/e spin-off Vabrema BV.
Joffry Maltha and Jan-Willem van Bree tended the birth of Vabrema. “The PhD study of Jan-Willem generated some nice results, and we wanted to get them to market.” No sooner said than done. The results were patented, a valorization program ensued and a private limited company founded. Then came a prototype and a test phase.
The Mitoplicator has arrived, a device in which cells are subjected very rapidly to an electrical field and then dispersed in a breeder reactor. “An interesting invention for the pharmaceutical industry,” Maltha suggests.
“Many drugs are produced these days using cell cultivation, and that is a very expensive process. Biological cells are simply very slow – a cell divides about once a day. If you subject those cells to an electrical field, they divide much more quickly. So there is a lot to be gained from this.”
Vabrema is aiming to cut production time by half. The TU/e spin-off is also hoping eventually to integrate the device with breeder reactors. Current customers are mainly the laboratories of biopharmaceutical companies but the company eventually hopes to add universities and hospital labs worldwide to its customer base.
Vabrema works with Radboud University and the VUMC. “And TU/e Innovation Lab is also a good sparring partner for us. We get feedback and advice from them as well as help on finding financial support. Being able to spar with someone now and then keeps you sharp.”