The startup IsoPlexis received $100,000 from the YEI Innovation Fund—the second investment by the fund which was created in September 2013 by Yale University, Connecticut Innovations and First Niagara Bank to provide early-stage funding to promising ventures that have participated in a program at the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute (YEI). IsoPlexis is developing a single cell immunoassay and software that provides in-depth understanding of immune cells and cancer cells. The startup is built around Yale-patented technology developed by Rong Fan, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Yale who received a 2014 National Science Foundation Career Award for his work in this area.
Fan and IsoPlexis CEO Sean Mackay, a 2014 graduate of the Yale School of Management, met through the Technology Commercialization Program (TCP), which connects professional and graduate school students with patented faculty inventions to launch companies. The program is jointly run by YEI and the Office of Cooperative Research.
“Rong and Sean have really worked together to develop both the science behind IsoPlexis and the business plan,” says YEI Deputy Director Erika Smith who runs the TCP. “It’s a prime example of the great collaborative ventures between faculty and students that are possible at Yale.”
IsoPlexis further developed through a 2013 Fellowship at YEI—a 10-week summer incubator for promising Yale startups—and the company has continued to gather data and grow, adding five employees.
“The data we’ve gotten has provided a lot of confidence in the value we can provide to many drug developers, especially in cancer research,” Mackay says. “Our technology allows researchers to tease out indicators of patient response at the cell level, at a level of detail not achieved previously. It allows our partners to ask new and important questions, like ‘is a patient interacting with a novel therapy the way we thought he would?”
The $100,000 investment will be instrumental in establishing lab facilities, furthering the development of the product and positioning the company to reach out to customers at leading cancer research hospitals, pharmaceutical research groups and academic institutions.
“This is the next step in YEI being integral to our growth,” says Mackay, “getting in the lab and expanding on the work we’ve been doing, and allowing us to grow in Connecticut.”