IsoSpec lands funding for platform that identifies unknown molecules at scale

Identifying molecules in minutes, company targets the “95% unknown” molecular space to support development of new disease treatments and biomarkers.

Swiss startup IsoSpec Analytics has secured $1.9 million in funding to advance its biomolecular analysis technology that identifies unknown molecules at scale. The company is targeting the biotech and pharmaceutical sectors with an approach that sheds light on the vast unknown molecular space in human biology – potentially supporting the development of new therapeutics and the discovery of new biomarkers.

A spin-out from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL), IsoSpec was founded in 2022 by EPFL researchers Dr Ahmed Ben Faleh, Dr Stephan Warnke, and Prof Thomas Rizzo. The founders integrated technologies from analytical chemistry, photonics, and cryogenic material to create a tool capable of generating a new data dimension for molecular structures, enabling the identification of previously unknown molecules.

Having already found practical applications for its technology in the analysis of sugars and metabolites, IsoSpec is now targeting applications in therapeutics development and diagnostics, where it claims the technology holds promise for discovering new biomarkers and advancing clinical research.

“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,” said Faleh. “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 for the deadliest diseases.”

Powered by infrared spectroscopy

Traditional methods for identifying unknown molecules rely heavily on mass analysis, which often falls short in providing comprehensive information. IsoSpec’s technology goes beyond mass spectrometry by incorporating infrared spectroscopy, which captures unique molecular fingerprints, increasing precision and accuracy, and dramatically reducing the time required for molecular identification “from months to minutes.”

“Unfortunately, mass alone does not uniquely determine the structure of a molecule,” said Rizzo. “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. By adding infrared analysis directly inside a mass spectrometer, we have a valuable new dimension by which to identify molecules.”

The funding round was led by Founderful (formerly Wingman Ventures), with participation from Tiny.vc, another.vc and Venture Kick. The funds will be used to automate IsoSpec’s platform and integrate machine learning tools for enhanced data analysis and insight generation, as the company seeks to further streamline the molecular identification process and expand the technology’s reach into new markets.

Photograph courtesy of IsoSpec.