New funding: Ozette, a biotech company that last year spun out of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and was incubated at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2), has raised a $6 million seed round. The Seattle-based company has eight employees with plans to double that number in the next few months with the fresh cash.
Biotech innovation: The Ozette team has created an AI platform — its “Immune Monitoring Platform” — that can analyze massive combinations of proteins being created by individual cells. By automating the analysis, the platform can discover cells with unique and important protein profiles as it relates to disease and healthcare treatments. The initial focus is on cancer patients.
Go deeper: The proteins a cell is expressing within it or on its surface affects how it behaves. In the past, researchers could detect eight to 15 proteins, but improved tools allow them to identify the presence of 30 to 40 different proteins at once.
When the numbers were smaller, it was possible to look at many or most of the different protein combinations exhibited by individual cells. But with the ability to detect so many more proteins, the combinations now number in the billions to trillions of individual cell types.
Existing tools, however, haven’t been able to track that much data. Ozette’s founders estimate that in the past, researchers were able to analyze 10% of the information revealed by their studies. Their tool brings that up to 100%.
“Ozette’s platform is unique in that it allows us to resolve these cell types even in light of such an enormous search space,” said Dr. Ali Ansary, CEO and co-founder of Ozette. “We’re no longer limited anymore, which means we can provide researchers with unparalleled insights, simply not possible until now.”
The team is analyzing existing datasets to generate new insights. It can also do comparisons across datasets to look for trends in patient responses.
Founders’ pedigrees: Ansary is an entrepreneur and attending physician at the Universality of Washington Medical Center. Ozette’s other founders include Greg Finak, chief technology officer for the startup and a Fred Hutch senior staff scientist; Raphael Gottardo, Ozette’s scientific founder and scientific director for Fred Hutch’s Translational Data Science Integrated Research Center; and Evan Greene, a Fred Hutch data scientist.
“What Ozette is delivering to science and medicine is game-changing because it sheds light on the entire cell profile of the immune system, not just only a small percentage of it,” Matt McIlwain, managing director at Madrona, said in a statement. “Ozette brings together the power of computational biology and data science to the life sciences.”
“At AI2 we are constantly looking for scientific potential in artificial intelligence that has the power to improve daily lives, and Ozette does just that,” said Oren Etzioni, CEO of AI2. “Ozette’s Immune Monitoring Platform is exactly what scientists and researchers have been looking for.”