Isoma Diagnostics, a spinout of Philadelphia’s Wistar Institute, has secured a first round of seed funding from Ben Franklin Technology Partners and the University City Science Center’s Phase I Ventures Program.
The company did not disclose the funding amount, but a Wistar Institute spokesperson noted that it was in the six-figure range.
Isoma, which launched last year, will use the funds to develop and clinically validate a molecular test for stratifying glioblastoma patients. The company’s technology is based on intellectual property licensed from the Wistar Institute and the University of Pennsylvania.
The technology uses differential expression of gene transcript variants (isoform-level gene expression) to classify patients into different glioblastoma subtypes — proneural, neural, classical, and mesenchymal — which differ in survival and treatment response.
According to Isoma’s website, a Wistar research team classified gene isoform expression levels in glioblastoma samples from The Cancer Genome Atlas consortium and identified transcript-based molecular signatures for the disease subtypes.
These markers were identified using RNA-seq and exon arrays, were translated to an RT-qPCR platform, and were validated to have 92 percent accuracy in a cohort of 206 unique glioblastoma samples obtained from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, according to the website.
Although grouping patients by subtype is an important first step toward developing personalized treatments, few tumor subtyping resources are currently available. As such, the Isoma technology has the potential to become a useful resource in ongoing or prospective clinical studies, and to guide targeted treatments, Wistar noted in a statement.
Isoma will be led by cofounder and CEO Steven Davis, who has more than 20 years of experience in growing and managing medical device startups. Donald O’Rourke, a professor of neurosurgery at the University of Pennsylvania Brain Tumor Center and an adjunct faculty member at Wistar, is cofounder and chief medical consultant at Isoma.
“Glioblastoma has been treated as one type of cancer for more than 20 years with very little clinical improvement,” Davis said in a statement. “Isoma intends to help change how glioblastoma is treated by changing how the cancer is diagnosed. Our intellectual property and the extensive experience of our team in discovering and developing novel diagnostic tests will enable us to provide the most accurate glioblastoma multiforme subtyping test available.”
Louise Showe, a professor in Wistar’s Molecular and Cellular Oncogenesis program, and Ramana Davuluri, a former professor at Wistar, are co-inventors of the technology and will serve as scientific consultants to the company. The Showe laboratory will also optimize and validate the prototype glioblastoma diagnostic test, transferring the assay to “a more versatile technology platform that is better suited for clinical applications,” according to a statement.