Visikol Receives $450,000 in Funding from the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation
The Visikol team is proud to announce that it has secured two SBIR grants from the NIH and NSF for the continued development of the company’s 3D tissue imaging and digital pathology technologies:
NIH SBIR Grant for Developing 3D Breast Cancer Biopsy Histopathology Platform
Visikol, a leader in 3D tissue imaging is applying its 3Screen™ tissue imaging and analysis platform towards evaluating whether it can be used to improve breast cancer diagnosis.
As a business, Visikol is focused on being a leading drug discovery contract research organization and applying its expertise in advanced cell culture models, tissue imaging and image analysis to accelerate drug discovery for its clients. However, the company has always had its eyes on the long-term use of its 3D tissue imaging and digital pathology platform for several clinical applications.
Visikol Chief Executive Officer Dr. Michael Johnson explained, “Since starting Visikol, our goal has always been to shift the paradigm of histopathology from qualitative and two-dimensional analysis to quantitative three-dimensional analysis. We have had great success with this approach in the pre-clinical space and are now beginning to investigate how we can leverage these learnings in the clinical space.”
In the last few years researchers from Philips, Google, PathAI and Cernostics have shown that shifting the clinical histopathology paradigm towards quantitative digital analysis can significantly improve diagnosis accuracy and the ability to extract valuable insights. Advanced computing now allows for computers to extract thousands of features from tissues instantaneously and to quantitatively evaluate them instead of the historical human-driven approach.
The question that Visikol is asking is whether the two-dimensional data sets that these companies are quantitatively evaluating are indicative of whole tumors or if the fundamental practice of sectioning tissues into slices is limiting.
“While traditional slide-based histology is adequate for describing relatively homogenous tissues, we believe that due to the heterogenous nature of tumors and their complex three-dimensional features that we can improve diagnosis accuracy through three-dimensional evaluation. Additionally, many small but incredibly important features such as micro-metastases can be entirely missed with a two-dimensional approach,” described Visikol Chief Science Officer Dr. Thomas Villani.
Visikol has developed their 3Screen platform which is a high-throughput 3D tissue imaging workflow that allows for whole tissues to be transformed into dense three-dimensional data sets. These data sets are then mined for actionable insights using Visikol’s proprietary image analysis algorithms. It is hoped that through high-throughput whole biopsy analysis that diagnosis accuracy can be improved and that novel spatial biomarkers within the tumor microenvironment can be investigated.
NSF SBIR for Optical Projection Tomography Imager
Visikol is committed to building out a suite of best-in-class three-dimensional tissue imaging assays and has been awarded an NSF SBIR grant to develop a novel optical CT device to build out its imaging portfolio.
This NSF SBIR grant is the second one that the company has been awarded and will help the company with building out its 3D tissue imaging services. Specifically, the grant will be used to develop an optical CT device with partner Modus QA that is able to inexpensively image optically opaque biological features such as bones, nano-particles or dermal fillers in optically cleared tissues. Visikol will additionally evaluate the ability to use the device to conduct whole animal fluorescent protein visualization.
Visikol is focused on being a leader in the drug discovery services space by providing best-in-class assays that leverage its expertise in 3D tissue imaging. While the company already has confocal and light sheet microscopy systems such as the Thermo Fisher CellInsight CX7 LZR for 3D tissue imaging, conventional light sheet or confocal microscopy systems are limited in their ability to image opaque features and large tissues (>10 mm).
The optical CT device that Visikol is developing through this project will bridge the gap between the resolution of 3D microscopy techniques and the resolution of large tissue imaging techniques like MRI and X-ray CT. At the conclusion of this project, Visikol will have a fully-functioning and operational optical CT device that will be immediately leveraged for several drug discovery assays that the company will offer as a service through its 3Screen platform. These assays include: Rodent skeletal digitization/characterization, dermal filler diffusivity assays, whole animal fluorescent protein imaging, implanted medical device characterization and nanoparticle diffusivity assays.
Visikol is a preclinical contract research organization that is focused on digital pathology, in vitro assays and whole mount tissue imaging. The company has an expertise in advanced 3D cell culture models, high content screening, 3D tissue imaging and quantitative image analysis which it offers through its 3Screen™ service portfolio. Visikol’s mission is to help clients accelerate their drug discovery efforts through acquiring more complete information from tissues and shifting the paradigm of tissue analysis from qualitative and human-driven to a quantitative data-driven approach. For more information about Visikol or 3Screen™, please visit our website at visikol.com.
**Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute Of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health