The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), an affiliate of City of Hope, is partnering with a Silicon Valley firm to become one of the first research institutes in the world to employ a new Artificial Intelligence-powered imaging and sorting technology to classify and isolate individual diseased cells.
TGen's Scientific Technology Assessment Research Team (START) is partnering with Menlo Park-based Deepcell, which has developed a novel imaging platform that uses AI to analyze individual live cells in real-time.
TGen is the first of a handful of institutions to join Deepcell's Technology Access Program.
The technology uses cell imaging and AI to analyze single cell morphology -; essentially what it looks like -; within the context of the other cells in the sample. This enables users that are looking for novel ways to understand cell biology to characterize and isolate cells from minute visual features. Its resolution is powerful enough to see many of the component parts of each cell, including the cell's nucleus, which contains its DNA and other genomic information.
Deepcell's technology will help enable our TGen researchers to zero-in on the most-critical parts of a cell to gain a deeper understanding of what is driving disease," said
Stephanie Pond, Ph.D., TGen Vice President of Emerging Technologies and Head of START
First focus: melanoma
While Deepcell's technology can be used in the assessment of any disease, the TGen-Deepcell partnership will begin with a pilot study to characterize melanoma, one of the most dangerous types of skin cancer. Deepcell previously announced a partnership to study melanoma with the University of Zurich, Switzerland, one of only a handful of institutions worldwide, along with TGen, to have access to Deepcell's technology.
Dr. Jeffrey Trent, TGen's President and Research Director, leads TGen's scientific effort in melanoma. Benefiting this partnership is decades of genomic research and cell-based models of both pre-malignant and highly-metastatic melanomas.
"Major advances in medicine come from the introduction of sharper tools and cutting-edge methods that can open new avenues for research," said Dr. Trent. "Deepcell's technology, without question, opens new avenues for us to explore."
Deepcell provides advanced analysis
"Our unique AI-powered technology transforms cell morphology into a quantitative and high throughput marker for use in research," said Maddison Masaeli, Co-Founder and CEO of Deepcell. "With our technology, scientists can now characterize, identify and isolate viable cells in a label-free manner, and use the high dimensional AI-derived markers and sorted cells both to complement existing molecular workflows as well as a novel standalone method."
Dr. Pond said that, because the Deepcell sorting keeps cells intact, it will work hand-in-hand with TGen's established single-cell sequencing technology to provide the highest understanding possible about how each cell might contribute to disease, especially cancers.
"Understanding a complete picture of the tumor microenvironment should provide clues about how best to treat each patient, focusing especially on what type of immune cells might be present and coexisting with cancerous cells," Dr. Pond said.
TGen's new START program
TGen's START program is a new technology assessment center, dedicated to evaluating pre-commercial technology for use in TGen's research programs. TGen excels at applying new technology to the most vexing clinical problems. In the past decade, for example, TGen received the world's first access to multiple technologies that are transforming the field of genomics. These include: rapid whole-genome sequencing, PepSeq (protein) immunological scanning, single-cell sequencing, and high-throughput CRISPR genome editing.
START scouts, onboards, tests, and then hands off new technologies to TGen and the greater City of Hope enterprise. This process brings in new technologies that feed innovative research programs, which in turn feed new TGen commercialization efforts.