Topographic microstructured inorganic templates for complex 2D/3D spheroid culture and cell differentiation

Encytos has developed a micro(nano)structured (topographic) inorganic substrate for spheroid and organoid cell growth. This substrate supports cell growth in lateral direction as well as growth into spontaneous cell clusters creating yielding more realistic in- vitro tissue models. While competing substrates either force cells to grow as sheets or as “ball of cells” whilst our substrate allows cells to grow in their natural way hence yielding in-vitro models that are more predictive of the in-vivo situation. 

For example, intestinal cells and fibroblasts grow as sheets and tumors or tumor cell lines as spheroids both mimicking the in-vivo morphology. The unique shape of the structures on our substrate allows the cancer-associated fibroblasts to deposit their original extracellular matrix rapidly and provide contact points for the cells without forcing them to follow a given pattern. On undifferentiated cells, the interaction with the structures induces differentiation in distinctive lineages in a short time without the use of additional differentiation factors. So far, dedifferentiated intestinal cancer cells and adipose-derived stem cells were differentiated on the substrate while liver, intestinal, and brain tumor cell lines as well as primary tumors were grown into complex 2D combined with spheroidal cell clusters.

A future application of the Encytos substrates will be in-vitro models for personalized cancer therapy for each patient. Using patient-derived tumor tissue we will grow in-vitro microtumors in their microenvironment in order to mimic as closely as possible the native tumor. On those predictive microtumors, different first-line treatments can be tested to choose the best therapy for each patient.

To reach market entry of the Encytos substrate as a consumable in research biolabs 1 Mio euro investment is needed. This money will be used to set up a production-line for the substrates, a marketing campaign, a sales team, and to set up a biolab to develop customized cell culture protocols. The R&D for the personalized cancer therapy will be financed by EU grants. In 2026 break-even will be reached and by 2027-28 the company will have a positive cash-flow with only selling the lab consumables.

Encytos is managed by an international founders’ team: Silke Krol (chemist, CEO), Arturo Susarrey Arce (materials scientists, CTO), and Erwin Berenschot (Micro(nano)fabrication Scientist, production manager). At the moment, Encytos has one part-time employee for substrate production. Encytos holds an exclusive royalty-free license on the patented technology.

Silke Krol
Arturo Susarrey Arce
Erwin Berenschot
Startup activities

Venture Challenge Fall 2021

Silke Krol