Editor’s note: WRAL TechWire and the Council for Entrepreneurial development are partnering to present a series of profiles and Q&As featuring companies startups and emerging companies participating in the CED’s annual Life Science conference coming up Feb. 28-March 1 in Raleigh. The latest profile is ​Celldom, biotech pharmaceutical startup in Durham


  • Website: http://www.celldom.com
  • CEO: Zachary Forbes
  • Contact information: zgforbes@icloud.com
  • Sub-sector: Biotech and Pharmaceutical                                                       
  • Headquarters: Durham, NC
  • Year Founded: 2016


Celldom is a seed stage biotechnology company. Most cancer patients die because their tumors contain drug-resistant cells, which though initially present at small fractions, continue to enrich during treatment to create incurable tumor clones. Celldom, Inc., will solve this problem by developing a platform to organize, monitor, and analyze rare drug-resistant cells to quantify the functional and genetic features enabling their resistance.

Celldom’s signature product will consist of an analyzer and intelligent microfluidic chips, wherein each chip can isolate tens of thousands of single cells or single cell pairs in a single test, keep cells alive for multiple days, challenge the arrayed cells with different drugs, and then prepare barcoded libraries for targeted down-stream sequencing.

Celldom will market its products to medical researchers and pharmaceutical companies, who will use these products to design better cancer therapies to broadly suppress resistance and ultimately save the lives of countless patients.


  • Zachary Forbes PhD, President and CEO
  • Benjamin B. Yellen PhD, Chief Technology Officer
  • Kris Wood PhD, Chief Scientific Officer


  • Funding: NIH NIGMS Phase I SBIR: $224,000 + 40% indirects, NC Match $65k anticipated Seed Round Ongoing
  • WSGR signs on as Celldom IP and General Counsel, November 2015
  • Company Incorporation, February 2016
  • Option to License all required IP Negotiated with Duke University, April 2016
  • Core IP international PCT patents submitted, August 2016
  • NIH NIGMS Phase I SBIR Proposal Successfully Funded, November 2016
  • Celldom joins BIOLABS in Durham NC, December 2016


Duke Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative, Duke Office of Licensing and Ventures, NC Biotechnology Center, SBTDC, Biolabs


  • What is the primary pain point you are seeking to address?

Almost 50 years after the US declared a “War on Cancer”, we’ve only recently realized that every cancer cell has unique behavior and biology. Unfortunately, this manifests in deadly fashion. Even at small fractions, most cancer patients die due to drug-resistant cells in their tumors enriching during treatment. It makes you wonder – how do drugs make it past clinical trials if there are resistance issues?

It’s simply too time and resource intensive to use traditional cellular research methods to address all resistance risk before clinical trials, and current single cell analysis methods lack the power and precision needed to reliably identify resistance. Celldom was formed to create a new to world system for massively parallel, single cell pharmacogenomics and confront drug resistance in oncology.

  • What sets your company apart? What’s the “secret sauce”?

Celldom’s propriety technology is a two step transfer method for programmable arrangement of massively parallel, multiplexed arrays of single cells or single cell pairs. Cells by nature are heterogeneous, but rare events such as drug resistance may occur at rates of 1 in 10,000 or greater.

Current state of the art in single cell analysis always suffers from trade offs – for example droplet based methods for single cell analysis may be able to deal in high volumes of cells, but they can’t be kept alive in droplets of oil to study their function and link that to their genome, or conventional microfluidic methods may be able to phenotype and genotype as Celldom proposes, but statistical power is at least an order of magnitude off and cells can’t be kept alive long enough to conduct thorough drug proliferation studies and subsequent analyses.

Celldom’s signature product will consist of an analyzer and intelligent microfluidic chips, wherein each chip can isolate tens of thousands of single cells or single cell pairs in a single test, keep cells alive for up to several days, challenge the arrayed cells with drugs or biologics, and then prepare barcoded libraries for targeted down-stream sequencing.

  • Why should investors be interested in your company? What is the potential market size?

We like to look at our potential from the bottom up, rather than top down. Certainly, BCC Research estimates that single cell analysis was worth more than $600M in 2015, which will nearly triple by 2020.

One might assume that’s all driven by the deep pockets of the biopharma industry, right? Interestingly, however, when you look generally at spending on cell & tissue characterization technology and consumables, academic researchers spend more and will continue to spend more over the next few years.

This reflects what we know to be true and hear on a daily basis – drug companies increasingly look to academic researchers to drive their future product lines.

The US alone has around 500 NIH-funded cancer research labs focused on divergent biology of individual cancer cells, yielding a strong annual addressable market starting from key opinion leader (KOL) core labs, expanding to emerging investigators and eventually to widespread commercial adoption.

We’re trying to build a ‘by researchers, for researchers” product line. We’ve thus far been successful getting strong letters of support from future customers in top tier institutions, government labs, and industry players and that support has helped us win NIH small business funding, with hopefully more on the way.

We have been rigorous in our voice of the customer discovery and market analysis. Our pricing is driven by what markets have shown they can sustain, and we’ve constructed a plan to begin generating contract research revenue within a year, and a physical product launch in 2018.

We welcome investors who can bring more to the table than just cash such that we can expedite this schedule and start making an impact together. Strike while the iron’s hot.