Biology operates at the single-cell level: human tissues are composed of highly heterogeneous cells interacting and regulating each other, and all interactions within the cell reverberate throughout the whole organism. A full understanding of individual cells, including genotype, function and phenotype, could unlock the biology of multiple diseases. However, most high throughput biological experiments are still performed on 96 wells at a time and all single-cell platforms are only able to run very specific assays on a few thousands of cells at a time, while lacking the capability to connect multiple assays or modalities at a time.
Zafrens is developing a novel platform that expedites drug discovery and overcomes the tradeoff between throughput and depth of analysis. The company’s Z-Screen is a step-change in throughput and resolution of experiments, expanding the conventional 96-well format to 50,000–200,000 wells with imaging and single-cell multi-omic capabilities integrated in every well. Large CRISPR, CAR-T, mRNA libraries, or endogenous molecular heterogeneity, can be mapped to their individual manifestations as cell behavior, cell-cell interactions and secretions. The founder, Swamy Vijayan, is an experienced biotech entrepreneur, having previously built Omiome (a DNA sequencing platform sold to PacBio) and Plexium (small molecules targeting protein degradation with several programs advancing to clinical trials).
Due to the broad application of its technology — from small molecule discovery to cell and gene therapies — we believe that Zafrens has the potential to become a fabric for developing novel therapeutics. Moreover, with its plans for an internal pipeline of RNA-modulatory small-molecules and HLA-agnostic TCR libraries to common cancer mutations, Zafrens also has the opportunity to accelerate the path to initial drug candidates and thereby play a fundamental role in combating cancer and other diseases.
We are excited to be backing the Zafrens team on their mission to democratize access to therapeutics, irrespective of modality. Read more about the company’s recent $23m financing here.