Understanding The Ultimate Drug: The Human Immune System

Biotechnology companies often stem from a single brilliant scientist’s laboratory breakthrough. This idea will typically be the anchor around which everything else revolves – research, collaborations, company building, and so on. If the concept is credible, it can attract millions of dollars in investments. And if the stars align, it could make it through years of pre-clinical and clinical validation to become an FDA- approved treatment therapy.

One of the things that makes Immunai so exciting to us is its differentiated approach. Instead of a company built by scientists anchored on a singular breakthrough idea, Immunai was founded by mathematicians, computer scientists and biologists who took one of the last remaining biological mysteries — the human immune system — and decided to map and decode it. Rather than building a company around a laboratory breakthrough, Immunai’s co-founders Noam Solomon, Luis Voloch, Ansuman Satpathy, Dan Littman and Danny Wells took on a challenge that humanity has not yet solved. They built the most impressive multi-disciplinary team they could and are driving towards a genuine understanding of the enigma that is the immune system.

The simple hypothesis is that most, if not all, hereditary and non-hereditary diseases alike, are the result of some dysregulation of the immune system; either too much activity as is the case with autoimmune diseases, or too little activity that we see in just about every cancer type. Thus, the team that can decode the “why” our immune system is not doing its “proper” job will potentially hold the unique key to unlocking the most powerful and specific drug available – our own immune system.

It wasn’t that long ago that the best scientific minds thought that the immune system was infinitely complex. Immunai’s approach seems like a modest shift, but it is actually tectonic: the immune system is not infinitely complex but, rather, it is incredibly complex. Yes, it spans multiple organs and trillions of cells with interactions that are non-linear. Yes, that makes its behavior hard to attribute to any one component in isolation and has historically acted as a major barrier in creating effective therapeutic interventions.

But the solar system also seemed infinitely complex for many centuries until the first telescope was invented, and the science of astronomy has never been the same. We believe that Immunai is building the world’s most advanced telescope into the immune system, and our expectation is that the field of immunology is going to change dramatically. The progress from cell discovery in the 17th century tosingle cell sequencing in the 2010s emboldened much of Immunai’s leadership to move the science forward. The incremental advancement that Immunai is driving from single cell sequencing of individual cells to a systems biology profiling of those cells and, by extension, our human immune system – can be a tipping point. The Covid-19 pandemic we have been living through for the past 18 months has, unfortunately, created a newfound appreciation among many for our immune system and its role in fighting diseases. The immune system can be our most powerful drug – we just need to better understand it in order to harness its full potential. The fusion of technology and biology can do wonders for our understanding of it, and by mapping the human immune system, our expectation is that Immunai can help chart that future path for all of us.

Eli Groner
Managing Director, KDT
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