IsoPlexis, ISB Partner on COVID-19 Single-Cell Functional Immune Response Mapping

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Functional cellular proteomics platform developer IsoPlexis and the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB) said today they will partner to study COVID-19 by mapping functional immune responses at the single cell level.

The partners said they plan to carry out research on immune cells from people who have been diagnosed with, or recovered from, COVID-19. IsoPlexis’ single cell functional proteomics platform will be applied on a variety of immune cell types, including various T cells and myeloid cells, in order to map the overall response to the virus.

According to IsoPlexis, uncovering functional immune responses using its technologies has led to key breakthroughs in therapies that harness the immune system across disease areas.

“Cellular immune signatures based on cytokines may be key in understanding and predicting response, and also how to mitigate disease progression,” IsoPlexis CEO and co-founder Sean Mackay said in a statement. “This partnership with the ISB underpins our goal to accelerate immune understanding and medicine in COVID-19. Through our unique functional analysis of each cell, we can unlock further understanding of how COVID-19 interacts with the immune system.”

Data from the partnership will be released as soon as possible and made globally available to researchers combatting COVID-19, IsoPlexis and ISB said.

Speaking with GEN in January, MacKay described the company’s single-cell proteomic analysis technology: “Our technology employs single-cell proteomic analysis to figure out the range of cytokines that have been secreted by each edited immune cell. It’s been used in a variety of cases to determine if edited cells are potent enough to achieve responses in mice and patients.”

“The platform measures the cytokines in each cell both to orchestrate the entire immune system and also to deliver the payload to the tumor,” MacKay said. “Our data has revealed subsets of potent cells that are unique to patients responding to the therapy.”

In a GEN webinar that same month, Jonathan Chen, technology co-inventor at IsoPlexis, joined Leonardo Ferreira, PhD, postdoctoral scholar and Jeffrey G. Klein Family Diabetes Fellow at the University of California, San Francisco, to discuss how the IsoPlexis IsoLight single-cell functional proteomics system played a crucial role in the informed design and development of this next generation of cell therapies. To view the on demand webinar, visit here—or read a summary of the webinar here.

“Global effort and partnerships are needed to reach an accelerated understanding of COVID-19,” added ISB president and professor James R. Heath, PhD. “Critical information from all aspects of the immune response will be key in understanding how to fight the disease and address complications. Functional phenotyping of each immune cell, using IsoPlexis’ system, will be a cornerstone of the understanding of this immune response in affected patients.”

Studying Seattle COVID-19 patients

The partnership—whose value was not disclosed—is one of two initiatives involving IsoPlexis and ISB.

ISB said it will also collaborate with IsoPlexis and three other partners—the Swedish Medical Center, Stanford University, and Adaptive Biotechnologies—to begin a study of Seattle patients who have contracted COVID-19. The initial research will analyze 200 patients in the Seattle area, with plans to expand the study to Providence St. Joseph’s Health hospital systems in both Portland and southern California, ISB said.

“Our objectives are two-fold. First, we want to understand which patients are at the highest risk of severe infection, so that critical medical resources can be most effectively utilized. Second, we will develop an in-depth understanding of what constitutes an effective immune response to the virus, so as to design better vaccines or therapies,” Heath said in a message to subscribers of ISB’s newsletter.

Speaking with GEN last year, Heath discussed how single-cell functional analyses accelerated development of CAR-T therapies. The analysis of CAR-T cells prior to infusion, he noted, can help researchers anticipate patient response, which also provides feedback usable in the process of manufacturing cells; “You want to control the manufacturing process to optimize the tumor killing properties of the T-cells, while also minimizing factors such as T cell exhaustion.”

“These single-cell functional analyses have been pretty good across the board at differentiating responders from non-responders, both during the course of therapy and, in some published cases, in terms of analyzing CAR-T-cell products before they are even infused into the patient,” Heath observed. “There are not many other metrics that have yet emerged that give you that type of feedback.”

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