Merck, Illumina back immune-mapper SerImmune in $8M round

SerImmune will expand its antibody-mapping technology.

SerImmune, whose technology maps the human antibody repertoire, rounded up $8 million from Merck, Illumina Ventures and unnamed investors. The funds will drive the expansion of the company’s immune mapping platform and antibody repertoire database.

In addition to aiding drug discovery and vaccine design, the platform’s applications include the development of multiplex diagnostic panels and companion diagnostics, as well as tests for the early detection of disease, the company says.

Using next-generation sequencing, SerImmune’s technology maps human antibodies to antigens associated with infection, allergens, microbiome organisms, autoimmune diseases and cancers.

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The company keeps a database of antigen epitopes—the part of the antigen where antibodies bind—that are related to health and disease. This information could boost understanding of the immune system’s relationships with different antigens and drive immune-related R&D.

"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,” said Nick Naclerio, founding partner of Illumina Ventures, in a statement. “This fits our strategy of investing in great teams that are pioneering new applications of NGS alongside other strong syndicate partners."

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Illumina Ventures was born last year when the sequencing giant committed $100 million to a venture capital fund centered on early-stage companies working on new uses for DNA sequencing and using genomics to improve human health. In addition to SerImmune, Illumina Ventures has invested in Twist Bioscience, Kallyope and Genome Medical.