Immunai Joins 10x To Scale Single Cell Genomics

December 21, 2020

By Allison Proffitt 

December 21, 2020 | Immunai has announced its collaboration with 10x Genomics as one of the first 10x Certified Service Providers. Immunai will leverage 10x’s robust single-cell technologies to map hundreds of cell types and states. By applying its proprietary artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms, Immunai supports biomarker discovery and insight generation to ultimately power new therapeutic discoveries and accelerate drug development. 

Immunai was started by Luis Voloch and Noam Solomon about two years, Voloch told Bio-IT World. The goal is to “revolutionize immunology” by scaling single cell genomics, he said, both in the lab and computationally.  

The immune system contains hundreds of cell types, and the complex arrangement and interaction of these cell types define the person's immune system. The immune system can be measured longitudinally for different indications and pre and post-treatment to help better detect, diagnose and treat diseases. Substantial work has gone into developing hardware for different cell sequencing methods but translating the sequencing data into cell type and state annotation remains a big challenge. Moreover, pharmaceutical companies still lack the data analysis and computational tools necessary to distill the data into meaningful and clinically relevant information.

“One of the difficulties—generally in biology but accentuated in single-cell genomics—is batch effects,” Voloch explained. These artifacts in the data are driven by small sample size, he said. For example, in the Human Cell Atlas, “this was done across many different labs, by many different people. There are significant batch effects in the data, which make it very hard for anyone to analyze that data as one, unified dataset.”

Immunai addresses that problem with both laboratory methods and computationally. In the lab, Voloch said the company uses a variety of techniques to ensure consistency across patients, for example randomizing cells per lane to avoid batch effects.

Computationally, “we can analyze a 1,000-person cohort as one without the batch effects,” Voloch explained. “One of the reasons we have been able to do such large projects is because of our very large codebase for analyzing that kind of data… Our team has developed a lot of technologies for analyzing that data very quickly, so we can actually get from data on hundreds of patients to very meaningful insights in a matter of three to four weeks. We can get from all the raw data to very granular annotations to differentially expressed genes to clonality analysis in a matter of weeks.” 

The company—headquartered in New York with offices in San Francisco and Tel Aviv—recently emerged from stealth mode and has a headcount of about 50. The company has collaborations with pharma companies, though Voloch couldn’t reveal any details. Collaborations with academic institutions including Memorial Sloan Kettering, UPenn, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Baylor College of Medicine have been announced. 

With 10x, Immunai is among the first 10x Certified Service Providers in North America.  The 10x Certified Service Provider Program connects customers to service providers who have met a high standard of technical and service requirements, giving customers access to advanced sequencing solutions from a validated 10x provider. Immunai has been granted the Single Cell Immune Profiling certificate.

“Gaining as much insight as possible into cell behavior is crucial to unlocking our understanding of the immune system and mastering biology,” said Brad Crutchfield, Chief Commercial Officer, 10x Genomics in an announcement. “With the addition of Immunai into the 10x Certified Service Providers program, our customers can leverage insights from Immunai’s AI-powered technologies while using the 10x Genomics products that they’re engaged with today.”

Immunai will pair its immune cell atlas with the phenotypic clinical data that hospitals, biopharma, and biotech companies derive from 10x’s technology. With Immunai’s end-to-end computational AI pipeline customized for single-cell methods, researchers at pharmaceutical and cell therapy companies can better understand how immune cells operate with both granularity and scale. In turn, Immunai will help 10x’s customers answer clinical and translational questions related to the immune response to therapies. 

“This partnership is a win-win,” Voloch said. 10x provides the equipment and reagents, and Immunai can help their collaborators, for example pharmaceutical companies, quickly complete analysis projects involving 1,000-patient cohorts, “which was utterly unimaginable before,” he said.