2021-04-28| R&DStartups

Mirvie Heralds Liquid Biopsy-Based Test to Predict Pregnancy Complications

by Rajaneesh K. Gopinath
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Mirvie, formerly Akna Dx, is a startup company started by Stephen Quake and Maneesh Jain with the goal of applying liquid biopsy technology to improve pregnancy health. The company is developing a personalized, non-invasive blood test to support the early detection of pregnancy complications in expecting mothers. On April 27th, it announced the rapid progress it is making on this front.

Conditions like preterm birth, pre-eclampsia, and gestational diabetes affect 1 in 5 women. These unexpected maternal and newborn complications are the principal cause of pregnancy-related deaths and morbidity. Early detection is crucial, but a reliable method to identify complication risks in pregnancies is currently lacking.

“Pregnancy complications affect 45 million women globally each year. Yet, little is known about the molecular basis underlying both health and disease for the mother and child,” says Michal Elovitz, Professor of OB-GYN at UPenn and Chief Medical Advisor of Mirvie.

“Mirvie’s precision diagnostic and personalized medicine approach has enormous potential to advance health for mothers and their babies,” he added.

RNA Biomarkers to Spot Pregnancy Complications

Along with circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and exosomes, cell-free DNA (cfDNA) and RNA (cfRNA) have emerged as important biomarkers for cancer diagnosis and prognosis. The advances in omics technologies and liquid biopsy-based companion diagnostics have further contributed to the ascendancy of precision oncology.

Today, liquid biopsy technology has progressed beyond oncology to other areas such as cardiology, neurology, and hematology, among others. Mirvie is now extending the technology to maternal and perinatal biology as well.  Considering the unmet need that prevails in the early detection of pregnancy complications, the technology could potentially reduce pregnancy healthcare costs by 65%.

Mirvie’s goal is to interpret molecular messages that pass from the mother to the baby through the placenta. Using its proprietary technology, it attempts to detect thousands of cfRNA transcripts from the maternal blood. Machine learning algorithms can then measure these biomarkers to predict complication risks, allowing clinicians to get a snapshot of pregnancy health with just a simple blood sample. Mirvie is currently evaluating its blood test in patients through the Miracle of Life study.

A Breakthrough Technology

Invented at Stephen Quake’s laboratory at Stanford University, Mirvie’s technology has found financial backing from top investors like Khosla Ventures, Correlation Ventures, and Mayfield Fund. At present, it has secured a total of over $30 million in early-stage financing. Microsoft Co-Founder Bill Gates selected this innovation as one of the 10 Breakthrough Technologies for 2019 in a list published in the MIT Technology Review.

“Mirvie has taken a bold and fundamentally different approach to pregnancy health at the molecular level. Using machine learning analysis of an RNA liquid biopsy, our immediate goal is the early detection of unexpected complications to enable earlier interventions,” said Maneesh Jain, CEO, and Co-Founder, Mirvie.

“Down the road, we envision that knowledge of the underlying molecular subtypes that drive individual complications will catalyze more effective therapeutic interventions. I am honored to lead Mirvie with a diverse team of proven leaders and an audacious vision to transform pregnancy health,” he added.

Maneesh Jain was previously the CEO and President of CIRINA, Inc., a diagnostic startup that merged with cancer blood test manufacturer GRAIL Inc. in 2017.

Related Article: Amidst Battle with FTC, Illumina Faces Scrutiny from EU Over its $7.1B GRAIL Merger



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