Iain MacMillan, founder and CEO of Acceled Bio, founded Acceled Bio (then PennPHD) in 2016, after decades of experience in manufacturing optical components in support of optical instrument OEMs. Iain brings this expertise and supply chain knowledge to the design and commercialization of robust benchtop instruments for biomedical and life science research. We had a chance to sit down with Iain for a glimpse at how it started, and where it’s going.
What was the impetus for founding Acceled?
My brother, Professor Sir David MacMillan, was working in the field of photocatalysis, and based on his discoveries and papers on photoreactors at Princeton University, Merck had designed a device that would use those concepts to accelerate lab reactions. They recognized the need and potential for the tool globally for research and drug discovery but didn’t wish to pursue commercialization. David and I began to explore commercializing this benchmark instrument. The commercialization of photoreactors allows for an apples to apples comparison, creating repeatable experiment results in labs worldwide. This was not previously possible because most researchers needed to build their own systems.
You had the opportunity to work with your brother in the early stages of design. What was that experience like?
When David was excited about the endeavor, we put a lot of energy into getting the photoreactor company up and running. We’ve always helped each other along the way in our careers and looked for opportunities to support each other. It has worked to both our advantage.
The recognition he has received for his research at Princeton has emphasized the need for these types of instruments. And as his research took shape, his and other researchers’ needs informed our product development, expanding the versatility of the original photoreactor.
At what point did you know you were on to something?
When we produced the first prototype of the m1 photoreactor, it was tested at Princeton and their results indicated that the device was not only working efficiently but outperformed all competitors’ devices. Since then, we have expanded its capabilities and performance and now offer the m2 photoreactor, with the new 450Hi light source accessory to broaden its versatility, and the cLight, a cellular catalyst device.
With the recent addition of the cLight, Acceled now offers benchtop instruments that can progress research in drug discovery and life sciences. Where do you see the most promise?
The cLight is an entirely new market and chemistry, focused on the biomedical industry. As the chemists are looking at cellular reactions, the requirements for the device itself are quite unique. The cLight allows biochemists to perform several parallel reactions simultaneously to get a true comparison between different reactions. I am excited about what the cLight can do, and the research it can enable. m2 chemical reactions in vials have proven themselves over the last five years and have established the m2 as the leading photoreactor for those applications. cLight has the same potential to accelerate biomedical research.
What is next for Acceled? What excites you about the future?
We have been working to expand the use cases and potential for the m2 photoreactor, introducing higher-intensity LED light sources to further accelerate reactions. We are also innovating the instrument itself to make it more robust and reliable than it already is. For researchers who are already using the m2 or cLight in their labs, we are always looking at their emerging research applications, needs, and input to help us continue to innovate and support their research needs.