NEW YORK (360Dx) – Proteomics startup Seer Biosciences is developing a nanotechnology-based platform that it says will enable rapid, deep, and inexpensive proteome-scale analyses.
The South San Francisco, California-based company is focused on early detection of diseases in oncology and neurology and plans to launch its first product as a laboratory-developed test in 2021, said Omid Farokhzad, Seer's founder and CEO.
To support these efforts, the company has raised $36 million in funding through Series A and B rounds led by Maverick Ventures and Invus, respectively.
Seer was founded in 2017 but did not announce itself publicly until this past December. The company has not published any data on its platform, which it has named Proteograph, and Farokhzad declined to provide information on the technology underlying it beyond saying that it combined nanotechnology, protein chemistry, and machine learning to enable the proteome-wide analysis of large numbers of samples in a cost-effective manner.
Farokhzad said the platform is based on technology developed in his lab, where his research has focused primarily on the development of nanoparticle-based drug delivery, including the development of nanoparticles featuring moieties like small molecules, peptides, antibodies, and aptamers that target specific disease biomarkers.
Farokhzad was previously a professor at Harvard Medical School, leaving that post to run Seer fulltime. Prior to founding Seer, he founded three other companies, BIND Therapeutics, Selecta Biosciences, and Tarveda Therapeutics. BIND went bankrupt in 2016 after a clinical trial failure, and its assets were acquired by Pfizer for $40 million.
Farokhzad said Seer has several clinical studies across multiple indications underway and will begin publishing data from those studies this year. He added that while the company plans to launch its first test out of a CLIA lab, it ultimately aims to take its products through the US Food and Drug Administration regulatory process.
He also said that the company may open its data and platform to outside parties to allow them to use it for proteomic test development.
In addition to Farokhzad, Seer's team features several veterans of proteomic diagnostic companies, including John Blume, the firm's vice president of research, who was previously the chief scientific officer at Applied Proteomics; Bill Manning, Seer's vice president of product development and formerly the vice president of product development at Crescendo Biosciences and a developer of that company's Vectra DA proteomic test for rheumatoid arthritis; and Lyndal Hesterberg, distinguished fellow at Seer and formerly chief technology officer at Crescendo.
Farokhzad noted that proteomics has struggled with the fact that deep proteomic analyses tend to be costly and time-consuming while faster and less expensive analyses typically lack depth. This has long been a common observation within the field and one that researchers have taken various approaches to addressing. While advances in mass spec instrumentation have improved analyses, there still remain trade-offs between depth of coverage and throughput and in recent years a number of proteomics researchers have suggested that so far as clinical biomarker work goes, the field should prioritize the measurement of a substantial but not exhaustive number of proteins in a larger number of samples as opposed to maximizing depth of coverage.
Looking beyond mass spec, Somalogic's aptamer-based SomaScan platform has drawn substantial interest in recent years due to its combination of high throughput and depth of coverage. The platform is able to rapidly measure 5,000 proteins in plasma and other biological samples, though the company has not yet translated that capability into a successful clinical product.
Several academic teams and private companies are also working on nanotechnology-based approaches to proteomic profiling. In addition to research into the use of nanopores for protein detection and protein sequencing, a pair of commercial firms, Austin, Texas-based Erisyon and San Diego-based Encodia, are pursuing protein degradation-based approaches that utilize many of the technologies currently employed in next-generation sequencing.