Modulus Therapeutics, a cellular therapy startup based in Seattle and formed out of the Allen Institute of Artificial Intelligence (AI2), has received $3.5 million in venture funding. To design immune cells with better anti-tumor abilities, the business combines laboratory research with machine learning. Modulus focuses on producing performance-enhancing genetic modifications in natural killer (NK) cells, a new immune cell type in the field of cell therapy.
Modulus is developing a platform that might deliver early cell product candidates for testing to more established cellular therapy companies. According to Modulus Therapeutics head scientist Max Darnell, with rising biotech companies like Sana Biotechnology and Lyell Immunopharma, as well as an arm of Bristol Myers Squib, Seattle is known for its prowess in cell therapy.
Because the cells are extracted from each individual before being modified in lab dishes and re-infused, approved T cell therapies sell hundreds of thousands of dollars per patient. NK cells, however, have some distinct advantages, even though they only endure roughly two weeks in the body. As a result, they are more receptive to a less expensive, “off-the-shelf” approach that does not require individual patient harvesting.A slew of companies is developing NK cell products. Modulus Therapeutics attempts to cause perturbations, or mutations, in NK cells, allowing them to fight cancer more effectively, including the potential to eliminate solid tumors like breast cancer.