IsoPlexis' hardware can help spot hidden types of cells that may be overactive contributors to a particular illness. (IsoPlexis)

Profiling proteins leaving and entering cells for a close-up view of biology at work

IsoPlexis logo

CEO: Sean Mackay
Founded: 2013
Based: Branford, Connecticut

The scoop: More scientific researchers and biopharma companies are pursuing technologies that promise to offer a cell’s-eye view in order to parse their interactions with individual proteins and other cells to identify the core drivers of disease and potential remedies.

IsoPlexis aims to make single-cell analysis more accessible with the recent debut of its tabletop IsoSpark instrument, designed for both large and small laboratories. The company’s hardware is capable of tagging hundreds of individual cells at once with antibody-based barcodes and classifying each by the full range of proteins they secrete.

This work can help spot the previously hidden types of cells that may be overactive contributors to a particular illness or ones that may alter how the body engages with a specific medicine.

“Instead of looking at the RNA or the DNA level, we look directly at the wide range of these dynamic and functional proteins at the single-cell level,” IsoPlexis CEO Sean Mackay said.

“I think our platform opens up new modalities to answer critical questions about truly networked intracellular biology, and how that interacts with targeted inhibitors and similar drugs in combination,” Mackay said.

This includes applications in studying cancer immunotherapies and CAR-T treatments that may work in solid tumors, as well as the immune system’s responses to vaccines and infectious diseases.

“When the question is how do immune cells persist or how does a therapeutic that requires the immune system achieve durability—it comes down to subsets of highly active cells,” Mackay said. “They orchestrate a lot of the broader immune response, and we’ve shown that you can detect them very early on with our platform.”

What makes IsoPlexis fierce: The company’s IsoSpark and larger IsoSpark Duo launched last November, joining its slightly larger sibling, the IsoLight proteomics hub, which had been serving more established academic research centers and biopharma companies

This includes Lonza, through a partnership to provide quality analytics for cell therapies, and Yale University, to profile immune system biomarkers for COVID-19 severity.

The company has also joined a coronavirus research consortium led by the Institute for Systems Biology, Merck & Co. and Swedish Medical Center in Seattle—alongside Gilead, Adaptive Biotechnologies, 10x Genomics, Metabolon, Stanford University and others—to uncover the virus’ molecular workings.

More recently, IsoPlexis has assembled ground teams and expanded its commercial staff to pursue a broader launch, aimed at laboratories tackling cancer immunology, cell and gene therapies and the coronavirus pandemic. The company secured $135 million in new financing to support its efforts.

That funding will also power IsoPlexis’ product roadmap, which will interrogate more aspects of single-cell biology such as the phosphoproteome and the metabolome, to better understand the body’s regulation of proteins and cellular signals.

“We’ve come out with papers showing that if you can measure more of these proteins concurrently with each single cell, you can start to resolve and treat the aberrant signaling pathways that were engaged,” Mackay said. “What we hope to do is continue to popularize the need to look at the phosphoproteome, because the early data is so promising.” 

Investors: IsoPlexis raised $85 million in equity funding plus a $50 million credit facility in its January series D round, which included backing from Perceptive Advisors, Ally Bridge Group, BlackRock and other investors.