SerImmune, the developer of an immune mapping technology platform, has attracted a venture firm funded mostly by sequencing giant Illumina, as well as Merck & Co., among investors in an $8 million financing round announced yesterday.
The lead investor was Illumina Ventures, an independently managed venture fund in a strategic partnership with Illumina, which provides the majority of its capital and access to the company’s expertise. Merck participated in the financing along with other undisclosed investors. Illumina Ventures was formed last year, when Illumina committed $100 million over 10 years to the firm.
SerImmune said proceeds will be used toward expanding its immune mapping technology platform and antibody repertoire database while building strategic partnerships.
SerImmune’s Immune Information Technology (ImmuneIT) platform is designed to reveal the antigens that determine functional immune repertoires by mapping circulating antibodies to their diverse antigens using molecular libraries composed of billions of antigen decoys and big data informatics tools. The antibodies within a repertoire can be mapped to antigens from infections, allergens, microbiome organisms, autoimmune diseases, and cancers.
To determine antigen epitopes associated with many antibodies in parallel, SerImmune says, it uses a diverse peptide library capable of representing many antigens to probe the repertoire within a specimen. Library members binding to antibodies in the repertoire are separated, and their peptide sequences determined using massively parallel DNA sequencing. Antigen epitopes specific to a sample, cohort, disease or phenotype are then discovered using statistical search algorithms and cloud computing.
Applications of the platform, according to SerImmune, include antigen and antibody discovery, vaccine design and characterization, allergy and antigen identification, early disease detection, multiplex diagnostic panels, and companion diagnostics.
“Our growing human antibody repertoire database provides a new capability to map antigens to a range of diseases and clinical phenotypes,” SerImmune CEO Patrick Daugherty said in a statement. “By uncovering the many diverse antigenic targets of human antibody repertoires, we can develop highly multiplexed serological diagnostics and empower the identification of therapeutic and vaccine candidates.”
"We believe that the platform will provide new insights into the antigens and environmental factors involved in human disease, enabling more sensitive and precise diagnostic tests, new vaccines, and more targeted biopharmaceuticals,” added Nick Naclerio, Founding Partner of Illumina Ventures. “This fits our strategy of investing in great teams that are pioneering new applications of NGS alongside other strong syndicate partners.”