BIOFEST INVEST APPLICANT
Legal Entity Type: C-Corp
Company Type: Biotechnology
Company Stage: Commercialized
No. of Employees: 5
Desired Financial Amount: $1 million
CellChorus is a spinout from the Single Cell Lab at the University of Houston, and is based in Houston. In late 2021, the company announced the opening of an early access lab at the UH Technology Bridge. Top-25 biopharmaceutical companies, early stage biotech companies, not-for-profit research institutions, and cell therapy manufacturing companies apply data from the CellChorus TIMING platform to understand mechanism of action, prioritize candidates for clinical development, characterize responders and non-responders in clinical trials, and conduct in vitro validation for manufacturing applications.
• Daniel Meyer (CEO): Former COO of Genospace (acquired by HCA Healthcare / NYSE:HCA). Former investment team member at Arboretum Ventures and PJC.vc. MBA, Tuck/Dartmouth; BA, Middlebury. • Navin Varadarajan, PhD (CSO): M.D. Anderson Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and head of the Single Cell Lab at the University of Houston. MS, India Institute of Science; PhD, University of Texas at Austin; Post‑Doctoral research at the University of Texas and MIT. • Rebecca Berdeaux, PhD (VP of Science): Former Associate Professor (with tenure) of Integrative Biology and Pharmacology at the McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. PhD, UC Berkeley; BS, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. • Mohsen Fathi, PhD (Head of Technology): Eight years of experience running TIMING assays. PhD, University of Houston; BS, Sharif University of Technology.
Board of directors
• Daniel Meyer (CEO): Former COO of Genospace (acquired by HCA Healthcare / NYSE:HCA). Former investment team member at Arboretum Ventures and PJC.vc. MBA, Tuck/Dartmouth; BA, Middlebury. • Laurence Cooper, MD, PhD (Co‑Founder): CEO of Alaunos Therapeutics (NASDAQ:TCRT). Former tenured Professor at M.D. Anderson in Pediatrics and Immunology and Section Chief of Cell Therapy at the Children’s Cancer Hospital. MD and PhD, Case Western Reserve University. • Vijai Mohan (Co‑Founder): CEO of Secure Transfusion Solutions. Former Life Sciences Partner at Arcline Investment Management. Former Portfolio Manager at Hyphen Fund Management and Origin Capital Management. MS in Biotechnology and BS, University of Pennsylvania.
Product / Service
disease area / application
Dynamic single-cell functional analysis for oncology, infectious diseases, auto-immune disorders, and a variety of other disease areas.
product / Service
Challenge. The genesis of cells as living drugs requires the development of technologies that can profile massive numbers of cells at single-cell resolution. Legacy live-cell imaging platforms evaluate cells in bulk, providing average data with few readouts that are predominantly focused on target cells. Advances in physical and information sciences have driven significant improvements in single-cell analysis, but these are constrained by modalities that evaluate cells at a single point in time—and many are cell destructive. To advance the next generation of cell‑based products, we require the ability to profile individual cell‑cell interactions and performance at scale—and retrieve cells for downstream analysis. Solution. CellChorus places combinations of effector cells and target cells in each of thousands of individual microwells. CellChorus then applies Time‑lapse Imaging Microscopy in Nanowell Grids (TIMING™) with neural network-based artificial intelligence (AI) to identify and track cells, and to characterize their behaviors and interactions to produce a wealth of functional data. This provides high-throughput, single-cell analysis of cells and cell-cell interactions over time and produces data on migration, contact dynamics, killing, survival, cytokine secretion and sub-cellular activity/trafficking. TIMING has been featured in more than 20 peer-reviewed publications across multiple therapeutic types, including cell therapies (e.g., CAR T and NK cells) and antibodies—and is applicable to a wide range of disease areas, including oncology, infectious diseases, and autoimmune disorders. See example videos at cellchorus.com/videos. Value to Customers. CellChorus already has customers in preclinical and clinical development, and manufacturing. This demonstrates that TIMING impacts the full life cycle of novel therapeutics, including: • Understanding MOA based on function • Prioritizing candidates for clinical studies • Understanding patient response on clinical trials • Maintaining consistency of manufacturing • Predicting response to therapy to reduce non-responders and adverse events
technology / ip
Differentiation. Traditional bulk live-cell imaging companies provide average data across populations of cells and cannot provide detailed data on effector cells. CellChorus uniquely studies individual cell behavior and performance over time, retains cell viability for downstream profiling, and can integrate data from other technologies to provide a comprehensive understanding of cell‑based products. Intellectual Property. In addition to significant know-how and trade secrets related to analysis algorithms and other platform elements, CellChorus holds an exclusive license to issued and pending patents from the University of Houston, including a foundational issued patent for dynamic single-cell analysis.
Direct sales force.
Market. The initial end market includes institutions conducting research, development and manufacturing in cell therapy, antibodies, and vaccines. These are the fastest-growing segments in life sciences and represent a $3.3 billion market opportunity for functional single-cell analysis. Expansion into other therapeutic areas and technology types represents a total $7 billion market opportunity.
Bulk live-cell imaging (e.g., Sartorius/Incucyte, Agilent/Cytation) provides average data across 10,000s of cells. Readouts are limited and mostly focused on target cells without providing information on which cells perform best and why. Additionally, the most effective cells cannot be retrieved for further profiling (e.g., single-cell RNA sequencing). Other single-cell companies are either cell selection or encapsulation companies (e.g., Berkeley Lights) and/or provide limited functional readouts (e.g., do not include data on cell migration. There is no other offering that provides high-throughput, single-cell analysis of cells and cell-cell interactions over time and produces data on migration, contact dynamics, killing, survival, cytokine secretion and sub-cellular activity/trafficking.
Desired financial amount
CellChorus is funded by revenue, funder contributions, and investment from individuals and funds. Investors include Y Combinator, Breakout Ventures, Texas HALO Fund, Asymmetry Ventures, and life sciences founders and CEOs. The company has raised $1.8 million to date.
CellChorus has gross monthly burn of $80,000. The early access lab has inconsitent revenue as it is not meant to be a CRO/services lab, but a means to produce publications and give early access, so in certain months the company is cash flow positive, and in certain months it books no revenue.
Our early access lab continues to deliver commercial and technical validation. The big opportunity to scale is by offering an instrument/consumable/analysis offering. This capital will enable us to complete our first partnership with an imaging company to support that product launch. CellChorus is raising capital to expand the team, sign and publish with additional early access customers, and place the first units of its next generation instrument with external customers and partners.
CellChorus booked approximately $120,000 of revenue in 2022. The primary source of revenue includes instrument, consumable and analysis sales to biopharmaceutical companies, CROs, CDMOs, and not-for-profit research institutions. The company does not require FDA clearance or approval.
CellChorus has two primary paths to exit. The company may become the leader in single-cell functional analysis and execute an initial public offering, or it may be acquired by an established life science tools / research products company. There are multiple examples of both IPOs and acquisitions that have provided outsized returns to investors.