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The authors have developed a novel fabrication process for a selective micro-magnetic activated cell sorting (MACS) chip based on ferromagnetic material encapsulated micropillars (FMEMs), which is technically simple and low cost. The FMEM produces a high field gradient to magnetically attract, capture and hold cells on its interface. System test simulations were carried out to predict the efficacy of target capture and verify that the actual magnetic particles behaviour agreed well with model predictions. To determine the ability of the novel microMACS chip to capture circulating tumour cells (CTCs), SW620 human colon cancer cells were used in an in vitro flow model system and were able to be captured with the efficiency of 72.8%. The obvious accumulation of CTCs at a certain location on the chip suggested shear stress events at the pillar boundary may influence efficacy, and should be considered in further optimisation efforts.