Describe the company – the elevator pitch …
Bixels vision is to build personal bio-computers programmed with DNA.
We have just made a world first demonstration of a DNA programmed bio-computer that can play tetris and some other retro classics. The first product is an 8×8 bio-pixel display called bixels (bixels.io). It may be small but it is still powerful enough to play the old favourites tetris, pong and snake! Watch the story here (password: biotetris).
— Cell-Free Technology (@cellfreetech) November 26, 2017
We have hacked the cell and extracted the billion year old processor, the tiny nano machinery, that is responsible for reading DNA and writing proteins, enzymes hormones and medicines. It is one of the only techniques available that can use DNA programs but is still completely safe and non-GMO. While games consoles use code, or electronic signals, to program, our team at cell-free use DNA. So it is just like a cartridge that allows you to plug-and-play! For our team computers are as much about fun as they are about work which is why we chose retro-games as the application of their first product.
Why will you do well?
Now is the dream time to be running a biology business. Everything is at your fingertips and Cork really is the place to be. Right down the hall from us is Helixworks, the irish DNA foundry and that has meant we are at the leading edge of biotech innovation. We have a special team of four diverse interdisciplinary experts with both academic and industry expertise. We are driven and really share our vision for building the bio-computer of the future. We also have the right support behind us. The team at SOSVentures have supported us all the way and have doubled down with $250K invested to date.
Where are you based?
We are located in the Environmental Research Institute at University College Cork.
When was the company launched?
Cell-Free Technology is a company founded in Cork, Ireland, in April 2017.
The dream has managed a few converts already and we have already raised $250K from Sean O’Sullivan Ventures (SOSV). We have also gotten our first product (bixels.io) ready for market.
Who are you trying to attract to your product?
The Bixel project meets at a junction between computers, machines and organic biological materials, and it is used to play, create, explore inspire and learn!
Bixel (A biological pixel) is an 8×8 bit cartridge that works as a digital display but not like any that you have ever seen before. Each pixel used in the display is programmed using DNA made from a tube containing a protein extracted from jellyfish. This green fluorescent protein (GFP) is the material that helps jellyfish create their incredible fluorescent glowing colours – and while this protein is already used in many lab experiments and medical studies…. we thought let’s have some more fun with this! We decided to use it to play a bio version of tetris and much more besides.
We believe that these retro classics will attract everyone from 1 to 100 since pong, Tetris and snake are just so much fun!
It also has much more potential to be used for education, creativity, and interactive learning.
Interacting with biology in this way is safe, exciting and inspirational. Whether used at home, in school, or in creative industries, interacting with Bixel helps bring about an awareness of bio-engineering. Bixel helps create a discussion about humanity and its ability to alter its biological surroundings, by merging it with technology.
— Cell-Free Technology (@cellfreetech) November 28, 2017
What tips would you give to others looking to build their business?
If you want to build a business speak to Sean O’Sullivan Ventures. Every single member of the team (in Ireland and internationally) that I have met has not only listened but they have really cared and supported. They really got the fact that our team was skilful and smart but none of us had an MBA. We needed help and advice to build our business acumen and they have the patience and experience to help. We personally went through the RebelBio accelerator but whatever you do they usually have an accelerator for it and they are really top notch.
Tell us about your team?
The eclectic team of four feature a designer, biochemist, physicist and a robotics engineer.
Founding Team Dr Thomas Meany (CEO), Helene Steiner (CCO), Ian McDermott (CSO), Brian Manning (CTO)
Prior to founding Cell-Free Technology the foursome between them have 40 years of cross-disciplinary R&D experience and have worked in MIT, the Royal College of Art, University of Cambridge, Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, University of Sydney, National University of Ireland, Tyndall Institute, Ecole Polytechnique, Toshiba, Microsoft, Gencell and Vaccinogen.
Check out our founding team photos.
For more info here is our extended team bios
What are your plans for the future?
Our long term vision is ambitious! Our goal is to build the personal bio-computer which, unlike conventional electronic wearables, truly interacts with our bodies, speaking the natural languages of hormones and pheromones. For both medical and lifestyle reasons people want to interact with their environments in sophisticated ways. The smart devices of today can only make relatively crude measurements since they are simply not speaking the natural language of cells.
Our Chief Creative Officer Helene Steiner, formerly of Microsoft Research and Royal College of Art, explains “Our challenge is integrating smart devices seamlessly with our lifestyles. The bio-computer we are developing is not stuck in the test tube but can be embedded in wearables and even smart textiles.”
What are your favourite tech gadgets?
Ultra nerdy.. I love raspberry pi’s and I automate almost everything I can find.. Our original website was actually hosted on a raspi for 3 months!
What tech gadgets do you wish you could use to help you?
We love the Opentrons liquid handling robots and want more of them. We also had this cool idea to use drones to do liquid handling… Maybe next year!
How do people get in touch with you?