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John Hopkins, Akoya Biosciences Ink Deal to Advance New Immunotherapy Biomarkers

NEW YORK – Akoya Biosciences said on Tuesday that it will collaborate with the Bloomberg-Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy and the Bloomberg Center for Physics and Astronomy at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine to develop, validate, and clinically implement novel spatial phenotypic signatures for immunotherapy.

Akoya will contribute its Phenoptics multiplex immunofluorescence (mIF) platform for spatial phenotyping to the project. MIF technology preserves the spatial context of cellular expression and whole tissue architecture, Akoya said. According to the Menlo Park, California-headquartered company, a recent multi-institutional study demonstrated that the mIF platform more precisely predicts response to immunotherapy compared to gene expression profiling, tumor mutational burden, and current single-marker immunohistochemistry. 

Within the collaboration, Johns Hopkins will use AstroPath, a platform that applies celestial object-mapping algorithms to analyze large mIF datasets, to identify signatures predictive of immunotherapy response. The AstroPath program applies the principles of immunology, pathology, computer science, and astronomy to discover biomarkers.

An interdisciplinary team of immunologists, pathologists, oncologists, and astrophysicists will work together on the project, including Janis Taube, director of the division of dermatopathology at Johns Hopkins; Drew Pardoll, director of the Bloomberg-Kimmel Institute; and Alex Szalay, a professor in the department of computer science at the university.

"We have worked closely with the Johns Hopkins team as they have refined multiplexed immunofluorescence methods and integrated them into their AstroPath platform," Cliff Hoyt, VP of translational and scientific affairs at Akoya, said in a statement. "This paves the way for us to rapidly explore the deep spatial biology of whole tissue sections."

The partners are hoping that this collaboration will lay out an integrated process for biomarker development, from discovery to eventual clinical use, and be particularly attractive to drugmakers that want to identify best responders to their immunotherapies. Akoya will support Johns Hopkins to further develop the AstroPath biomarker program and convert discoveries from the platform into standardized high-throughput assays for clinical and translational studies. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.