Healthcare 

Immunai joins 10x Genomics program to boost drug development

Just over six months after emerging from stealth mode, startup Immunai has forged a partnership that could bring it more customers in the life sciences.

The New York-based company this month became one of the first certified service providers in North America for 10x Genomics, a life-sciences technology provider based in Pleasanton, California. 10x offers technology to give single-cell and spatial views of biological systems. Immunai uses artificial intelligence and single-cell biology to analyze cells. Together, the two companies said they can give drugmakers a better view at the cellular level of how a patient’s immune system is responding to therapy.

“Gaining as much insight as possible into cell behavior is crucial to unlocking our understanding of the immune system and mastering biology,” Brad Crutchfield, chief commercial officer for 10x, said in a statement. “With the addition of Immunai into the 10x Certified Service Providers program, our customers can leverage insights from Immunai’s AI-powered technologies while using the 10x Genomics products that they’re engaged with today.”

One potential use is in a clinical trial where researchers are testing two drugs alone and in combination, said Luis Voloch, chief technology officer for Immunai. The two drugs taken together may create a synergistic effect that is greater than the sum of their individual impact when taken alone.

Researchers would have observed the synergy but Immunai’s technology can spot the cellular mechanisms that lead to it, Voloch said in a phone interview. The resulting insights can help companies improve therapies or identify new potential combinations.

Immunai emerged from stealth mode in May with $20 million in seed funding led by Viola Ventures and TLV Partners. The company was founded by Voloch, a former machine learning engineer at Palantir Technologies, and Noam Soloman, a former Harvard University postdoctoral researcher. Soloman is CEO of the company, which employs more than 50 people, including experts in genomics, machine learning, bioinformatics, immunology and software engineering. Immunai’s customers include drug companies and academic research institutions such as Baylor College of Medicine, the University of Pennsylvania and Memorial Sloan Kettering.

“With the support of 10x products, we can provide our partners with crucial information that can drastically improve the quality and speed at which therapies are developed,” Soloman said in a statement.

Immunai is seeking to grow in what has become a crowded field: the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence in the pursuit of discovering new drugs more quickly.

The company’s proprietary technology tackles several challenges needed for a better understanding of the human immune system, said Voloch.

First, Immunai generates a more detailed look at cells, Voloch said in a phone interview. Immunai has identified more than 50 cell types, compared to previous technologies that have identified up to about 20. Then, the company can examine how the different cells respond to therapies, said Voloch.

The company’s technology also allows researchers to generate data and analyze single-cell behavior on a bigger scale, Voloch said. Previously, researchers had been limited to samples of five to 15 patients, he said.

With Immunai’s approach, researchers can study hundreds of patients. The higher numbers allow a better understanding of how therapies are working, Voloch said.

“What we have found really consistently across many projects is when you break this 100 to 200 patient mark, it’s when you really start seeing clearer patterns of response for biomarkers and mechanisms of action,” Voloch said.

Photo: Dmitrii_Guzhanin, Getty Images

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