Investors Raise $30 Million to Advance “Quality Control” for Gene Editing and Relapse Prediction for Oncology

December 18, 2018

Agilent and other partners are funding development of Tapestri, a single-cell sequencing platform designed to help predict cancer relapse in individual patients and show the efficacy of gene-editing experiments.

Mission Bio announced on Dec. 13, 2018 that it has received $30 million in Series B funding from investors that include Agilent Technologies, Cota, and LAM Capital, to develop its Tapestri platform, which was first introduced in 2017. The company, a spinoff of the University of California (San Francisco), sees this as a vote of confidence in a technology that was developed to help improve the precision of precision medicine. Mission has raised more than $50 million in funding so far. 

By drilling down to the genomics of the individual cell, Tapestri can offer greater insights into mutations and the progression of diseases such as cancer, the company said in a press release. “It offers a molecular profile of each cell, permitting a closer assessment of genetic diversity, and allowing detection of rare diseased cells that may persist after treatment,” according to the release. 

The result is a more precise analysis than offered by commercial next-generation sequencing platforms that take an average reading of all the cells in an individual patient’s sample. The platform, which includes an analytical instrument and software and consumables, is being developed for blood cancers, solid tumors, and genome editing applications.

So far, company executives say, Tapestri users have sequenced more than 1,000,000 blood cancer cells, and this volume is expected to grow 10-fold over the next six months.

Mission Bio executives also note that the platform offers significant improvement in sensitivity. Tapestri allows researchers and clinicians to analyze tens of thousands of individual cells in parallel, according to the press release, and is 50 times more sensitive than traditional next-generation sequencing techniques.  In addition, it allows for single base pair resolution, unlike other single-cell DNA approaches, which offer resolution in the megabase (i.e., millions of base pairs) range.

These capabilities could be invaluable in tracing the way that diseases such as cancer progress within individual patients. It could also help elucidate the mechanism behind minimal residual disease (MRD), a leading cause of relapse in patients that had been in remission for cancer and leukemia. MRD has been traced to small numbers of cancer cells that remain active in bone marrow, despite treatment, and typically go undetected.

The company plans to develop the platform for oncology applications, and to extend its use with Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) for gene editing.

Currently, more than a dozen cancer centers in the United States are using Tapestri to study cancer cell clonal heterogeneity in an effort to improve treatment and patient outcomes. A number of medical research programs have already demonstrated the platform’s capabilities. The MD Anderson Cancer Center, for example, used Tapestri to sequence more than 500,000 cells from 70 patients, to map the development of acute myeloid leukemia. 

According to Dr. Koichi Takahashi, who presented research findings at the 60th Annual Meeting for the American Society of Hematology (ASH), the platform was able to “precisely identify cancer subclones throughout treatment and disease progression,” bringing medical researchers “closer to delivering on the promise of precision medicine.”

The platform has also been evaluated by the University of California, the University of Pennsylvania, and Stanford University, in studies of therapy resistance and MRD. “Cancer will kill 10 million people this year alone. We can beat cancer with more effective, dynamic therapies, but we first need to precisely understand its biology, starting with the varying genetic composition of each and every cancerous cell,” explained Charlie Silver, CEO of Mission Bio, in the press release. “MRD is a major cause of cancer relapse; overlooking even one cell could put a life at risk. With the Tapestri Platform, we can track every cell, every mutation, to better guide treatments and save patient lives.”

Cell therapy impact

The platform can also identify the co-occurrence of cellular mutations across different cell populations, according to the press release, which would allow it to improve cell therapy by validating or analyzing the results of gene editing experiments that use CRISPR. This capability would offer some quality control for a crucial avenue of medical research and reveal the efficiency and accuracy of gene editing to improve the safety and efficacy of treatments.

“Tapestri’s…quality control capabilities are strengthening our CRISPR R&D programs,” said Darlene Solomon, senior vice president and chief technology officer of Agilent Technologies, quoted in the press release, who noted that the platform “has the potential to improve patient outcomes in the fight against cancer-and that’s the most meaningful benchmark of all.”

Source: Mission Bio