National Spoil Your Dog Day 2022
The startup anticipates commercialisation of its veterinary-to-human expansion within the next one to two years. Lum3n/Pexels

California-based precision medicine startup ImpriMed is revolutionising cancer treatment for our beloved pets and potentially for humans.

The company, founded in 2017 by Sungwon Lim and Jamin Koo, both with PhD degrees from Stanford, has successfully developed AI-powered technology to aid veterinarians in identifying the most effective drugs for individual cases of canine and feline blood cancers.

ImpriMed's journey began with a passion for improving the outcomes of dogs and cats battling cancer. Now, with their success in veterinary oncology, the company is gearing up to extend its precision medicine technology to human oncology applications.

Lim, the co-founder and CEO, expressed his excitement in a recent interview with TechCrunch, highlighting the adaptability of their ex-vivo live-cell technologies for a broad range of human blood cancers.

"The proven know-how acquired from developing AI algorithms in veterinary oncology streamlines the building of new predictive models in human oncology. The veterinary-to-human expansion is happening now at ImpriMed and will result in commercialisation in one to two years," Lim stated.

Having previously worked in the cancer drug industry, Lim and Koo founded ImpriMed with a shared vision: to maximise the use of existing tools in the medical toolbox and accelerate personalised cancer treatment regimens.

Lim emphasised the urgency of providing effective treatment options for cancer patients, stating: "People who are suffering from cancer and desperately need treatment right now don't have time to wait over 10 years for a new drug."

ImpriMed's AI-powered personalised drug efficacy prediction service is a game-changer for oncologists. It enables them to identify effective anticancer medicines with a high likelihood of success for a specific patient before deciding on a treatment plan. The recent closure of a $23 million Series A funding round, led by SoftBank Ventures Asia and featuring strategic investor SK Telecom, positions ImpriMed for further advancements.

The startup plans to collaborate with SK Telecom, a major South Korean telecommunications company, which has developed an AI-based veterinary X-ray image diagnosis technology called X-Caliber. ImpriMed's graduation from the Mayo Clinic Platform Accelerate Program last year provided validation for its AI models, utilising a large human patient database provided by the program.

ImpriMed's veterinary services, which are fully commercialised, have gained traction among veterinarians in the US Over 350 veterinarians have utilised its services, catering to the approximately 600 board-certified veterinary oncologists nationwide. The B2B service involves collecting live cancer cells and blood samples from patients, measuring their response to different anticancer drugs using AI and delivering a personalised report to the ordering veterinarian within seven days.

In the realm of human precision oncology, ImpriMed is making strides. Lim revealed that their AI software for multiple myeloma, a rare blood cancer, is undergoing approval processes with plans for commercialisation in 2025. The startup also offers a live-cell-based drug sensitivity test for pharmaceuticals, allowing them to measure the efficacy of new drug compounds on actual patients' live cells.

ImpriMed is addressing a significant challenge in veterinary medicine – the effective treatment of lymphoma, the most common cancer diagnosed in dogs. Lim highlighted the uniqueness of each dog's response to treatment, stating: "Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, its [AI-powered personalised] technology not only increases the chances of successful treatment but can potentially reduce unnecessary costs and side effects from less effective treatments."

To date, ImpriMed has assisted over 5,000 dogs with lymphoma, collecting real-world clinical outcome follow-up data from more than half of these cases. A recent study demonstrated the AI's effectiveness in identifying suitable lymphoma drugs, leading to a 4-fold higher complete response rate and a median survival time of 3-fold longer.

Competitors in the pet precision medicine space, such as FidoCure and Vidium Animal Health, as well as companies utilising live cancer cells for functional precision medicine like Notable Labs and Xilis, pose challenges.

However, ImpriMed's unique strength lies in its ability to develop and incorporate AI models into the personalised medicine service workflow, leveraging substantial clinical outcome data.

With the recent funding injection, ImpriMed plans to expand its drug response prediction technology into human oncology, grow its workforce and broaden its business development pipelines.

The company, currently boasting around 40 staff members, is poised to continue making significant strides in the field of precision medicine, offering hope to both pet owners and individuals battling cancer.