Israeli-US personalized therapeutics company Immunai has announced a $20 million funding round for the development of its system for adapting treatments and accelerating drug development. The round was led by Viola Ventures and TLV Partners.
Immunai, which has so far operated under the radar, was founded eighteen months ago by two MIT and Harvard graduates: its CEO Dr. Noam Solomon, and CTO Luis Voloch. They were joined by senior figures from the worlds of biology and medicine as scientific founders: immunologist Prof. Ansuman Satpathy; data scientist Dr. Danny Wells, a founding member of Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy; and recently by Dr. Dan Littman, a world-renowned immunologist who became famous for his research into the interaction between the immune system and its environment, not necessarily when a disease is present.
Initially, Immunai is combining genetic sequencing technology at the individual cell level and deep machine-learning of the immune system in order to build a broad immunological database. The company says that cancer treatments based on strengthening or targeting the immune system have led to a revolution in cancer research and therapies, but both cancer and the immune system are so complex that there are hundreds of interactions between elements of the growth and elements of the immune system, making it difficult, or even impossible, to predict the effect of a treatment. Today, such treatment is given on a trial and error basis, which tends to exhaust the patient, and they are very expensive, sometimes without benefit. The inability to predict which patients any particular type of treatment will affect positively also harms their success in clinical trials, and sometimes prevents a treatment that could have helped certain people from being approved.
Immunai's data platform enables deep learning of the responses of the growth cells and of the various body cells to different components of the immune system, in conditions of health and sickness, and under different treatments.
"When looking at only a specific disease or patient cohort, one gets a limited and siloed view of the immune system," Solomon said. "By using machine learning and applying it to our proprietary diverse database of single-sequencing data paired with rich clinical data, our platform identifies common patterns that are not visible when looking at the narrower disease-specific view." From one blood test, the company can obtain a terabit of information on the interaction between the immune system and a sick or healthy body.
"Our mission is to map the immune system with neural networks and transfer learning techniques informed by deep immunology knowledge. We developed the tools and knowhow to help every immuno-oncology and cell therapy researcher excel at their job and increase the speed in which drugs are developed and brought to market, while making sure impacts are understood," said Voloch.
Immunai employs more than 30 people in Tel Aviv and New York, and is collaborating with several leading hospitals and pharmaceuticals companies.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on May 14, 2020
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