InVivo Analytics has received $1.7 million to develop and commercialize its next-generation fluorescence imaging device, called InVivoFLUOR, for 3D monitoring of immune cell migration in animal models of cancer, the company announced in a press release.
Company researchers plan to validate the system on a mouse model of ovarian cancer. Animals will be treated with an advanced immunotherapy, developed at the the University of Washington, that activates T-cells against ovarian cancer cells.
The grant is part of the National Cancer Institute’s Small Business Innovation Research Phase II program. It follows a Phase I funding totaling $222,000 in 2019, which InVivo Analytics used to demonstrate the feasibility of the imaging approach. The federal program is designed to support domestic small businesses and startups with promising innovative technology with the potential for commercialization.
Immunotherapy is a form of cancer treatment that harnesses the power of immune cells to fight cancer. These therapies are at the forefront of cancer research, and animal studies are required to further investigate and advance these treatments.
However, preclinical studies have been limited by the lack of imaging tools that track immune cells in living animals, namely to assess whether cells are infiltrating tumors.
Current fluorescence imaging techniques, in which immune cells are labelled with a fluorescent tag, are not suited for 3D visualization of cells or for determining immune cell load inside an organ, a parameter called biodistribution. This is key to assess how well immune cells are targeting tumor cells in a living animal.
An additional caveat is the lack of an automated system that recognizes the boundaries of an organ and bypasses the need for manual organ delineation by an operator — a procedure that is not only time-consuming but also prone to high variability.
InVivoFLUOR was developed to fill the current gaps in imaging techniques, allowing researchers to determine the biodistribution of immune cells — namely cancer-killing T-cells — inside tumors.
The system allows for the 3D mapping and visualization of fluorescent T-cells inside a living mouse. Moreover, it has an automated system that allows for organ delineation and the spatial alignment with the fluorescent image without the input of an operator. This is done using the company’s patented Body-Conforming Animal Mold, in which the animal is placed in a known position, allowing for the reconstruction of the fluorescence image.
The system holds potential to facilitate the development of novel immunotherapies by helping researchers to rapidly evaluate how immune cells are targeting the cancer cells in a live animal, the company stated.
“Using fluorescence optical imaging technologies for biodistribution studies will accelerate immuno-oncology therapeutic development,” said Alexander Klose, PhD, co-founder and chief technology officer of InVivo Analytics.
InVivoFLUOR uses a hardware plugin module for imaging, coupled with a fast computer program that runs on the company’s cloud-based image processing and data analysis platform, called InVivoAX platform.
“The InVivoAX automated software addresses the need for reproducible and unbiased data analysis by removing the operator’s cognitive bias from determining regions of interest,” said Neal Paragas, PhD, company co-founder and CEO.
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