shares of isoplexis, a company that makes tools to zoom in on the flurry of protein activity around a cell, began business on Friday. The company aims to raise about $125 million with the IPO, which will be used to build a commercial team and advance the company’s plans to play a bigger role in precision medicine manufacturing.
IsoPlexis was founded in 2013 and fits into the category of companies you might find in a lab during the drug research process. The company primarily focuses on single-cell proteomics (basically the study of proteins and their interactions). The company has developed tools and software to analyze proteins secreted by cells, from immune cells to tumor cells.
In particular, the instruments can be used to identify cells that excrete many different types of proteins. These datasets can then be used to develop new treatments or to understand how people may respond to existing ones.
“The device we invented is able to identify a subset of cells in the body, which we call superhero cells,” explains CEO and co-founder Sean McKay. “And these superhero cells are defined by a lot of activity coming from a small subset of cells that you would normally miss with current technologies today.”
Mackey says there are about 150 IsoPlexis units on the market as of the first half of this year. Clients include 15 global pharmaceutical companies, and, Per SEC filings, nearly half of the comprehensive cancer centers in the US
IsoPlexis has raised a considerable amount of money in the past from some notable investors.
Pre-IPO, the company had achieved approx. $205.5 million In funding, per CrunchBase. newest Series D Round The funding totaled $135 million (about $85 million in equity securities and $50 million in debt financing), and included participation from “funds and accounts” managed by Perceptive Advisors, Eli Bridge Group, and BlackRock.
Today, the shares were initially priced at around $15 each, but have fallen to around $12 as of writing.
A key part of the IsoPlexis thesis is that they are the first to use proteomics and single-cell biology to link the function of cells to patient outcomes. Or in other words, being among the first to show this, we may be able to tell how well someone like a cancer patient might, by examining how individual cells and proteins interact.
There is published evidence that IsoPlexis devices have been used to this effect, especially when it comes to cancer treatment.
for example, a 2021 nature medicine The study used IsoPlexis devices to examine immune cell activity in lymphoma patients. These patients had cancers that were resistant to treatment, or those that came back after remission. Specifically, they were receiving CAR-T cell therapy – a form of treatment where genetically engineered immune cells are injected into a patient, where they help target cancer cells. Ultimately, the study found that cytokine production (a protein involved in cell signaling) by those CAR-T cells was an important indicator of how potent those CAR-T cells really were.
In short, it showed that IsoPlexis’ tool could help uncover signals that told scientists how well the CAR-T cell therapy was working.
“What we have seen is that the unique cells we identify indicate a long-term response in patients,” McKay says. “We have published studies in various cancers where patients have these kinds of unique immune cells, these superhero cells we detect, we know those patients will have this long-term outcome.”
For those particularly interested in the microscopicity of cells, the IsoPlexis technique may seem similar to flow cytometry—a well-established method of counting cells, identifying them, and measuring specific cell characteristics. There are some big established players in the world of flow cytometry, such as Thermo Fisher Scientific.
However, IsoPlexis argues that it may offer a whole new layer of information, largely, protein-based information, that flow cytometry misses. The company has licensed an invention that allows devices to barcode the protein activity present in each individual cell (now called Isocode). One Nature Reviews Chemistry paper suggests That barcoding is useful because it can analyze many different proteins in thousands of cells at once, and the cells can be recovered to be used in other experiments – but this technique is still a piece of the proteome’s overall function. Can catch only, so far away.
“That new layer of data for an individual cell is very different from the technology on the market today,” McKay says.
Even so, the company still has a long way to go before it reaches profits. According to SEC documents, the company has been making losses for the past several years. Although the company generated $7.5 million in revenue in 2019 and $10.4 in 2020, it lost approximately $13.6 million and $23.3 million in those years, respectively.
Going forward, the path of development is largely to get more tools in the hands of more researchers.
“Our goal is to continue to grow at a faster clip, expanding to the same types of clients that we currently have, but with more depth, and that is while continuing to build a really commercial team,” he says. Huh.