What is ImpriMed?
ImpriMed is a veterinary precision medicine startup that uses artificial intelligence on live cancer cell analytics to predict how a specific patient will respond to cancer therapy drugs before taking them. Currently, ImpriMed’s services are available to dogs with canine lymphoma and leukemia.
The Current Veterinary Oncology Landscape
As with humans, cancer is a leading cause of death in dogs. There is currently a huge need to treat cancer in dogs; 6 million dogs are diagnosed with cancer every year, 25% of dogs develop cancer at some point in their lives, and 50% of disease-related death in dogs is due to cancer.
Because so many dogs have cancer, the veterinary world can benefit from precision medicine, an emerging approach for disease treatment and prevention that takes into account an individual’s specific genes, environment, and lifestyle. Precision medicine is popular in human cancer treatment but has yet to be fully introduced in animal health.
ImpriMed uses an innovative and powerful approach called functional precision medicine. They do this by collecting information about how patient’s living cells respond to anticancer drugs. ImpriMed is the only veterinary medicine company that enables this approach.
How ImpriMed was founded
Dr. Sungwon Lim co-founded ImpriMed, Inc. in 2017. Passionate about helping cancer patients, Dr. Lim wanted to innovate care for patients who need effective treatment immediately. Rather than develop a new treatment — a process that can take years — Dr. Lim and his co-founders wanted to optimize treatment for patients by using existing therapies in a more efficient way.
The team planned to create a tool or service that could quickly identify which of the currently available commonly used drugs has the best effect on each individual patient’s cancer cells before the patient actually takes the drug. To speed up the process further, they started with pet patients, working with veterinary oncologists to provide predictive data that helps them better treat their patients. In the future, Dr. Lim and the ImpriMed team want to expand to other animals and, eventually, to human patients.
When a pet has cancer, time is of the essence. The trouble is that each cancer – and every pet — is different, so finding the right anticancer drug for a patient can be a slow and challenging process. ImpriMed speeds up this process using an innovative approach by combining functional precision medicine and artificial intelligence.
Most precision medicine companies rely on genetic information to predict which medications will function the best in the patient’s body. This approach involves no direct measurement of drug efficacy on the patient’s cancer. ImpriMed takes a more direct approach called “functional” precision medicine: they directly test a patient’s living cancer cells against various anticancer drugs and analyze the cells’ functional information.
While ImpriMed’s functional testing provides valuable information about the drug sensitivity of a patient’s cancer cells, the relationship between the cellular responses and the systemic responses in a patient’s body can be complex. To predict which drugs elicit a positive clinical response in actual patients, the team conducted clinical studies for more than three years to collect real-world clinical outcome data from hundreds of patients' treatment records. Based on this database, they built, trained, and refined powerful artificial intelligence models to predict clinical responses using their proprietary lab test results. Due to ImpriMed’s continuous learning process, these AI models increase in accuracy over time.
The result is a unique precision medicine product that enables veterinarians to quickly find the best drugs for their individual patients. ImpriMed’s key service, Personalized Prediction Profile, has so far been used by more than 200 board-certified veterinary oncologists at more than 100 specialty hospitals in the U.S. to help more than 2,500 dogs with lymphoma and leukemia.
A Customer Story
Ellie, an 11-year-old female Chihuahua-terrier mix, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer called high-grade T-cell lymphoma. A sample of her cancer cells was taken at the hospital and delivered to the ImpriMed lab, where the researchers first used Ellie’s live cancer cells to identify the subtype of the disease. They also tested many different anticancer drugs on Ellie’s cancer cells to measure the drugs’ efficacies. Ellie’s veterinary oncologist, Dr. Kevin Choy expected she would live just over a month on palliative care. However, the ImpriMed team found a drug that was predicted to be highly effective against her cancer, which extended Ellie’s lifetime for almost 9 more months.
“I did convince the parents to use a traditionally-less-effective oral chemotherapy drug called chlorambucil for a high-grade aggressive lymphoma, which should not normally work, but as it was identified on the ImpriMed platform we decided to give it a try as it was an inexpensive pill,” said Dr. Kevin Choy, Ellie’s veterinary oncologist, right after completing Ellie’s chemotherapy. “She is now in remission more than 6 months out!”
“ImpriMed made us feel more confident in our choices, and gave us peace of mind. It’s been 6 months. We just had a check-up, and Ellie’s doing really well,” said Ellie’s mom, Sue. “The drugs make her hungry, but then again, she always did live to eat! … I’m so pleased this advancement is taking place. Having a solid tool to base decisions on is essential. We’ve been rescuing animals for 30 years, and it’s such a positive to see these innovations become available.”
ImpriMed’s Team Culture
ImpriMed was founded on a culture of hard work, consistent growth, and a desire to bring innovation to cancer care. The team consists of three different core teams: Bioscience, Data Science, and Business & Commercial Operations. ImpriMed is a team of lifelong learners from diverse cultural backgrounds. Everyone loves our four-legged friends, science, and being creative when faced with everyday challenges.
“It’s always rewarding to hear back from veterinarians and pet parents that the information and insights we provided tremendously helped with the prognosis and eventually led to improved the pet’s quality of life. And I am happy to be part of this team to witness the changes and innovations in action,” said one ImpriMed employee.
Every employee at ImpriMed believes pets with cancer deserve medical care that’s as good as humans get (or even better). And one day, the company hopes to translate this innovative technology to human beings as well.
Check them out: https://www.imprimedicine.com