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AI Cell Analysis Start-Up Raises $6M Seed Funds

T lymphocyte

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of a T lymphocyte. (NIAID)

16 Feb. 2021. A new enterprise using artificial intelligence to analyze individual cells for immune-related diagnostics and therapies is raising $6 million in seed funds. Ozette Technologies in Seattle is spun-off from labs at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, both in Seattle.

Ozette Technologies aims to provide more precise disease diagnostics with high-powered analytics of individual cells. The company applies artificial intelligence techniques to cytometry, quantitative analysis of cells and cell systems, in this case cells in or interacting with the immune system. Ozette’s technology is based on research in the lab of scientific founder Raphael Gottardo at Fred Hutch that designs statistical and software tools for single-cell analysis, particularly for understanding vaccines and infectious diseases.

Greg Finak, a co-founder of Ozette, is the company’s chief technology officer, and formerly a staff scientist at Fred Hutch. Finak led development of statistical models in Gottardo’s lab for understanding gene expression through RNA sequencing in cells. Gottardo and Finak also produced a statistical package called CytoML for analysis of flow cytometry data with the widely-used commercial statistical software R. CytoML is part of an open-source collection of single-cell analytical packages using R called Cytoverse created in the Gottardo lab.

More detailed and comprehensive analysis

Ozette says its use of artificial intelligence makes possible more detailed profiling of immune-related cells than is possible with most other techniques. The company says its technology can identify and analyze all of cells in a sample, providing a more detailed picture of cellular activity for diagnostics, to identify existing treatments, and eventually for discovery of new therapies. Current methods, says the company, often require manual analytics and do not approach the granularity and comprehensiveness of Ozette’s process.

Another Ozette Technologies founder is Ali Ansary, a Seattle physician and entrepreneur, and formerly entrepreneur in residence at the Allen Institute for AI. The Allen Institute, started by Microsoft founder Paul Allen, incubates start-ups where artificial intelligence is a core technology. The institute partners with venture capital companies to spin-off new AI start-ups, in this case Madrona Venture Group in Seattle.

According to Crunchbase News, Ozette is raising $6 million in seed funds led by Madrona Venture Group, with the Allen Institute and Vulcan Capital taking part in the financing. The company says it also raised another $6 million in grants and other funds since it started up last year. Ansary, now Ozette’s CEO tells Crunchbase News, “We have pioneered this work over the last decade, and where there are huge clinical applications, we are learning from the data that is being generated.”

Madrona Venture Group says in a company blog post that Ozette is the fifth spin-off it supports from the Allen Institute adding, “Both applied AI – AI applied to data and processes – and this intersection of innovation are key themes for our investing now and in the coming years.”

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