Stephen Elledge's Harvard lab takes $17M to birth ImmuneID, a high-throughput antibody startup
Lea Hachigian, a principal at the Longwood Fund, recalls working with Harvard professor Stephen Elledge three years ago on the launch of TCR-focused TScan Therapeutics. Elledge initially set out to screen antigen-TCR matches in a faster, more systematic way and spent seven years putting together the tech for a platform that could run multiple T cell receptors against antigen epitopes and pinpoint the exact pairs that appear to interact.
And last month, that project, TScan, landed a $100 million crossover round to continue the work. The biotech is also several months into a partnership with Novartis.
“As we were working with him on TScan, we started to get to know some of the other work in his lab a little bit more deeply, and really we kind of centered on the ImmuneID technology,” Hachigian said.
This past spring, Longwood approached Elledge about forming a new biotech around the platform. And on Wednesday, ImmuneID was born with $17 million in seed funding to identify and target the antibody interactions that drive immune diseases. Hachigian, who also helped found TScan, is taking the helm as CEO.
While TScan is focused on T cell targets, ImmuneID is looking at antibody targets. Its screening platform, which utilizes AI technology, is designed to give a readout of the targets chosen by antibodies in a particular patient sample. And every time they run the platform, a huge amount of data is collected on hundreds of thousands of antibody interactions.
“So you can imagine what you find are antibodies against viruses if that’s what you’re interested in, you find IgE antibodies against allergens that could cause anaphylaxis, you find autoantibodies that might be markers of autoimmune disease, cancer, etc.,” Hachigian said.
In the case of allergies, which will be the company’s main focus to start, a patient might be mounting an improper antibody response to a peanut. Once you know the antibodies and where they’re targeting on peanut proteins, you can interfere with that interaction, Hachigian explained.
ImmuneID’s other focus areas will include autoimmunity, oncology, and infectious disease. By the end of this year, the CEO expects the small five- or six-person company to grow to 10 or 12. Longwood led the seed round, with help from Arch Venture Partners, Pitango HealthTech, In-Q-Tel, Xfund, and other undisclosed investors.
“The targets are already there, they’re just waiting for us to essentially… go through with our platform and pull them out,” Hachigian said.