Health, Wellness & Biotech

Insights From Cells: Ozette Brings In $6M Seed To Accelerate Drug Development

Life sciences data startup Ozette has raised $6 million in seed funding to continue developing its artificial intelligence-powered immune monitoring platform.

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Seattle-based Ozette’s technology was spun out of a collaboration between the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence in 2020 by company co-founders Ali Ansary, Raphael Gottardo, Greg Finak and Evan Greene.

The company says its platform enables scientists to quickly extract reliable insights from single-cell data across instruments, experiments and disease states. That data can be used by doctors to diagnose and prescribe medication with greater accuracy.

“This was a good time for us to seek funding due to the breakthroughs we have made with respect to the system,” CEO Ansary told Crunchbase News. “Traditionally, this area has been a ‘black box,’ and now we found we can treat cancer with the immune system. We have pioneered this work over the last decade, and where there are huge clinical applications, we are learning from the data that is being generated.”

Madrona Venture Group led the seed round, with participation from the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence and Vulcan Capital. Including this round and other grant funding, the company has raised about $12 million in total, Ansary said.

Ozette will use the seed funding on technology and platform development, as well as to hire talent including data scientists, engineers, computational biologists and immunologists, he added.

“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 written statement.

While the co-founders have been working on this technology for a decade, the company’s platform received a boost when Evan Greene came on board, Finak, chief technology officer, said in an interview.

Greene was able to make advancements that enabled the team to see single cells in high resolution, including being able to measure cells and proteins in the cells — more cell types than they could previously identify.

“We started seeing data through a new lens,” Finak said. “Instrumentation has grown in recent years, but information was being left on the table. We can now measure 30 to 40 proteins on one cell and across thousands of data sets. When the search space is trillions of cells, our technology enables us to see these, why some therapies work and on who.”

Meanwhile, immune monitoring is typically used to discover new treatments for cancer, but can be applied to a number of disease areas, including autoimmune and infectious diseases. In 2019, the global cancer immunotherapy market was predicted to reach $243 billion by 2026, according to Reports and Data.

Companies focused on data, AI and disease breakthroughs have also recently attracted investor interest, including:

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

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