Tuesday, April 20, 2010

iCyt Acquired by Sony: FCM controlled by PSP Motion?

TVs, PSPs, PMPs, Laptops, and now Flow Cytometers? This seems like something out of left field, but Sony recently acquired University of Illinois start-up company iCyt. For those of you not familiar with iCyt, they are developers of the 4-headed sorting monster, the Reflection, and more recently, the Synergy (a sorter/analyzer hybrid), and now the Eclipse (a bench-top analyzer capable of doing particle sizing, absolute counts, multi-well sampling, and multi-color analysis). iCyt has certainly made a name for itself by bringing new and exciting technology to a field overpopulated with BD instruments and clones of BD instruments, and it looks like companies like Sony have taken notice. There was no way iCyt was selling enough instruments, and generating enough capital to do the development it wanted, so this acquisition is probably the best thing that could have happened to them. Gary Durack, founded and President of iCyt (and the former Director of the flow core at U of I) had this to say about the new acquisition, "As a Sony company, iCyt will be able to leverage Sony’s global resources to deliver a variety of innovative solutions to the cell analysis market. This is truly a win for iCyt, its customers, and all who will benefit from these advances." Sony desperately wants to enter the technology side of biomedical research where they feel they can make an immediate impact due to their $79 billion in annual revenue. Keiji Kimura, EVP of Sony had this to say: "iCyt’s experience and technologies will be valuable assets for Sony as it expands into this new business domain. We are confident that this acquisition will accelerate the development of Sony’s flow cytometry business by combining Sony’s expertise in the manufacturing of consumer products with the technological assets of iCyt."

I cannot wait to see the 1st flow cytometer controlled by the PSP motion controller. I mean, it had to happen sooner or later. Kids today (allow me to put on my "old man" hat for a minute) expect everything to work like a video game/social network. So why can't flow cytometers, and for that matter, all biomedical research technologies, operate like every other modern technology. Isn't scientific collaboration just a guise for social networking? Where is the Facebook of science? Why can I not run a flow cytometer with 5 of my "friends" (colleagues-represented by their avatar on screen) assisting me in picking out the important pieces of data? I know some of these things exist in some ways, but if it's not integrating seamlessly into the technology, no one will use it. This is where a company like Sony can come in and make lots of waves. They already know how to do all this stuff; think PSP marketplace, but for flow reagents, or analysis scripts, or cool software hacks. 3rd party, open-source geeks (me included) will jump all over this stuff.

One other area of importance is the whole idea of low-cost CD4 counts for areas of the developing world afflicted by HIV/AIDS. I know this is something that Gary Durack is already pursuing (see Cytometry for Life), perhaps now with a global company with lots of money and lots of influence around the world, a new integrated system that can truly allow for low-cost CD4 counts can be developed. I can't wait to see what comes out of this new marriage.


  1. OK, so that would get me to buy a PS3 - if I could control my sorter with it. Thanks for the thoughts. I've been wondering what Sony's going to do with iCyt, but haven't heard much talk about it.

  2. Totally. I'd also like to see a true video game of flow cytometer operation that we could use as a training tool. Using the PSP Motion, you could pick up a tube, load it on the instrument, adjust settings, draw gates, the whole bit. This way people could practice until they're very comfortable without taking up instrument time and wasting biological samples.