Breakthrough technology to rapidly identify unknown molecules at scale

Start-up Isospec Analytics raises $1.9m

18-Apr-2024

When developing new drugs, nutritional products, or pesticides, it’s critical that unknown molecules are identified correctly. But accurate identification is a lengthy process and all too often unsuccessful, leading to failed regulatory processes, or worse, consumer health being put in danger. Now, Isospec Analytics has raised $1.9M to commercialize new technologies for molecular analysis that rapidly identify unknown molecules in minutes, helping pharmaceuticals, nutrition and agritech companies develop safer products and enabling researchers to discover new biomarkers.

Isospec Analytics

Isospec Analytics founders (L to R) Thomas Rizzo, Ahmed Ben Faleh and Stephan Warnke

Isospec’s $1.9M pre-seed round is led by Founderful (formerly Wingman Ventures), with additional participation from specialized investors Tiny.vc, another.vc and Venture Kick.

Isospec was founded in 2022 by Ahmed Ben Faleh, Stephan Warnke, and Thomas Rizzo, who partnered together to explore how they could redefine the process of molecular analysis to access new biological information and enable breakthroughs in diagnostics, therapeutics, and nutrition. Based on over 20 years of research, the founders combined technologies from multiple disciplines – analytical chemistry, photonics, and cryogenic materials initially designed for space applications – to build a tool that can generate a new data dimension about molecular structures. This allows for the identification of molecules which were, until now, unknown.

Today, identifying an unknown molecule is primarily based on mass analysis, which does not provide sufficient information. Identifying a by-product or an impurity requires the combination of high sensitivity to detect trace amounts in a sample, coupled with the ability to generate data that can definitively identify the structure of a molecule. Existing tools lack either one or both of these capabilities. “Unfortunately, mass alone does not uniquely determine the structure of a molecule. Several different molecules can have exactly the same mass, called isomers, but totally different properties. For example, one isomer might be toxic, while another may be a life-saving therapeutic,” said Thomas Rizzo, Professor of Chemistry at EPFL. Definitive molecular identification currently requires the combination of several techniques and a lengthy process including purification and multiple syntheses. Companies developing new products are thus faced with a dilemma: either spend months identifying unknowns and delay their go-to-market, or move forward based on guesses and risk failing regulatory requirements and endanger consumer health.

In comparison, Isospec’s technology generates unique, information-rich metrics that allow for the rapid identification of unknown molecules in minutes instead of months, bringing unprecedented scalability to molecular identification. “By adding infrared analysis directly inside a mass spectrometer, we have a valuable new dimension by which to identify molecules,” adds Professor Thomas Rizzo.

Originating from the Laboratory of Molecular Physical Chemistry (LCPM) at EPFL, Isospec’s breakthrough technology is already being used in the analysis of sugars and metabolites within the food and agritech industry to carry out quality control and support product R&D. However, the team believes the real potential of their technology is in the discovery of new biomarkers for therapeutics development and diagnostics.

“In a human blood sample, there are 15,000 small biological molecules that can give precise information about a person’s health at any given time. However, less than 5% of these molecules can be identified. The ability to rapidly identify new molecules means we can now leverage the 95% unknown molecular space to develop treatments to the deadliest diseases,” said co-founder and CEO Dr. Ahmed Ben Faleh.

These combined use cases were compelling for Isospec’s investors. “Isospec’s value proposition, which offers early access to its cutting-edge research in biomolecular analysis as a service, convinced us of the potential of the technology and the team,” explains Alex Stöckl, partner at Founderful and board member of Isospec. “Isospec is one of the first 8 companies in which we have invested with our second fund, which aims to reach $120M.”

The team is currently working on the scalability of their platform, introducing automation at every step and implementing machine learning tools for data analysis and insight generation. “This round allows us to build a software team composed of experts in data engineering,” said Dr Ahmed Ben Faleh. Against the highly competitive backdrop of the sugar and metabolite analytical markets, Isospec is setting its sights on becoming the leading provider of molecular analysis solutions and biomarker discovery technology.

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