Harvard’s Wyss Institute launches gene sequencing startup, raises $23M in Series A funding

FISSEQ imaging of a mouse brain section approximately 8x6 mm and 20 microns thick, targeting markers of schizophrenia. Each spot is one base of an RNA transcript localized in 3D in the tissue. The color of the spot identifies the base. The spots change color over time, building up to image a full RNA sequence, up to 30 bases. Then using bioinformatics, the transcripts are localized to different cells and tissue areas.

Harvard’s Wyss Institute has launched the startup ReadCoor to commercialize 3-D in situ gene sequencing technology as part of an effort to develop new diagnostics and discover new drug targets.

ReadCoor’s technology can simultaneously sequence and map thousands of RNA segments with cells and tissues. Dubbed FISSEQ (fluorescent in situ sequencing), the technology is currently being used to map neuronal connectomics to uncover how the brain learns patterns and synaptic design. The end goal of that project is to advance neural-derived machine-learning algorithms.

Separately, the company announced it completed an oversubscribed $23 million Series A financing round that was led by Decheng Capital and joined by Lilly Asia Ventures, Vivo Capital, and Hansjörg Wyss. The funds will be used for the development and commercialization of the FISSEQ platform.

"FISSEQ reveals the dimensional context of molecular interactions inside cells and tissues underpinning both healthy tissue development and the changes that bring about disease," Shawn Marcell, ReadCoor's CEO and a former member of the team at Wyss Institute, said in a statement. “Several Wyss partners in both academia and industry are already advancing their research using FISSEQ, and with the launch of ReadCoor we are excited to expand toward an even broader range of applications.”

Current gene-sequencing technology only provides sequencing information and not spatial information. With the FISSEQ platform, researchers can get a view of gene expression within cells and tissues that may give them insights into biological complexity that were previously out of reach. 

According to ReadCoor, data from a recent breast cancer study that used the FISSEQ platform uncovered groundbreaking information about tumor development. Results from the study are expected to be published next year, the company said.

The FISSEQ platform is also expected to help in pharmaceutical development by supporting pathway analysis and identification, including evaluation and validation of new drug targets. 

"FISSEQ is the next step in the evolution of sequencing technology," George Church, a co-founder of ReadCoor who led the team that invented the technology, said in a statement. “We are opening the door to a truly 'pan-omic' view of all biological molecules and interactions within cells and tissues, powering numerous research discoveries and clinical applications.”