A Canadian startup aims to give the decades-old, hand-performed ELISA test a 21st century upgrade by transforming the humble immunoassay into a high-throughput protein profiling platform.
Formerly known as nplex biosciences, Nomic said it has worked with a small number of partners across the pharmaceutical and biotech industries since its debut in 2018. Now, it’s looking to expand, powered by a recent addition of $17 million in venture capital funding.
Launched by bioengineers from McGill University in Montreal, Nomic’s nELISA test relies on DNA nanotechnology, spectral multiplexing and automation to help quantify multiple proteins simultaneously in a more cost-efficient manner. The process is aimed at expanding the scope and scale of biopharma’s drug and biomarker discovery efforts, among other applications.
Today’s series A round was led by Lux Capital with additional backing from SR One and Casdin Capital. Previous investors have included Y Combinator, Real Ventures and 2048 Ventures.
“It’s evident that the next leap in understanding and treating disease will come from building atop the emerging omic-stack,” Lux Capital Partner Zavain Dar said in a statement, adding that the missing piece has been the ability to analyze the human proteome as easily as the genome.
Using a traditional ELISA—short for enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay—can be a time-consuming process that involves building sandwiched layers of specially tagged antibodies and the samples to be tested, with a change in color indicating the presence of a specific protein antigen.
Nomic’s miniaturized version of this gold-standard test runs several of these screenings in parallel—by shrinking down all of an ELISA’s components onto micron-sized beads—while aiming to maintain the accuracy of the manual method.
The company’s system was previously tapped for research programs at GlaxoSmithKline and the Montreal Neurological Institute, including profiling the levels of 150 cytokines among 15,000 cell-derived samples to generated more than 2.2 million protein data points and running thousands of assays to examine the effects of 1,200 different drugs on human brain cells derived from patients with Parkinson’s disease, according to McGill.
More recently, Nomic said it would provide its nELISA platform to the JUMP Cell Painting Consortium, a group coordinated by the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard that includes biopharma companies and nonprofit partners aiming to build a large, cell-imaging database to support drug discovery efforts.
The database, which is scheduled to be publicly available in November 2022, will characterize more than 1 billion cells and their responses to over 140,000 small molecules and genetic perturbations to provide a systematic map of the activity and toxicity of compounds and their effects on disease.
“Importantly, the complementary information provided by the two platforms, Cell Painting and nELISA, will enable JUMP-CP scientists to explore more of the biology underlying their compound and genetic screens,” Nomic co-founder and CEO Milad Dagher said in a statement.