My Science Matters - What is Berkeley Lights?

Berkeley Lights is a startup company based in Emeryville, CA, founded by Igor Khandros. They are focused on developing nanofluidic systems to isolate individual cells in liquid culture. Their system is poised to accelerate cell culture work significantly. 

Currently sub-culturing cells is a long and laborious process. With billions of genetically unique cells in typical suspension culture, it can take years to find the perfect cell for an application. The Berkeley Lights system allows researchers to find the right cell with the right features by manipulating, analyzing and selecting millions of cells in parallel. This is achieved using This is achieved by using OptoElectroPostioning (OEP) and OptoElectroWetting (OEW). OEP allows individual cells to be interacted with and sorted by cell surface characteristics, real time protein secretion levels and morphology.  While OEW allows researchers to mix, measure, dilute, combine and titrate nanoliter volumes of fluid.

Why does it matter?

Scientists will soon have access to a fully automated single cell selection systems that will drastically reduce the time it takes to bring new drugs to get to market. They can interact with and select for cells in a population in a matter of days and weeks instead of months or years. There are many possible benefits to this system, but let’s focus on one.

 Imagine you are treating a terminally ill cancer patient. Their cancer has a surface protein that allows it evade their immune system. You may opt to use an immunotherapy for treatment if you only had an antibody that could target this surface protein. At the current rate isolating a B-cell that secretes the specific antibody could take months or more. With the Berkeley Lights system, you could find the needed B-cell in much less time, and deliver the needed immunotherapy in time to save a life.