PharmaShots Interview: Coral Genomics’s Atray Dixit Shares Insights on the 2021 Innovation Challenge in Inflammatory Bowel Disease

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PharmaShots Interview: Coral Genomics’s Atray Dixit Shares Insights on the 2021 Innovation Challenge in Inflammatory Bowel Disease

In an interview with PharmaShots, Atray Dixit, Co-founder & CEO at Coral Genomics share his views on the winner of the $25K inflammatory bowel disease innovation challenge under the collaboration with Lyfebulb and Arena


  • Lyfebulb and Arena collaborated to discover 2021 Imagining Life Without Limits Challenge to get the solutions for patients with IBD
  • Coral Genomics was selected as the winner and will be awarded a $25,000 monetary award for the development of precision medicine in patients with IBD and increase its applicability in a diverse population
  • Coral focuses to connect performing cellular assays on immune cells from thousands of patients & is currently working on new clinical tests to guide medication selection, streamlining the prior authorization health insurance companies for drug approval along with a new therapeutic option

Tuba: Firstly, we congratulate you and Coral Genomics on receiving the award. Tell us more about the Challenge.

Atray Dixit: Lyfebulb and Arena Pharmaceuticals partnered to create 2021 Imagining Life Without Limits Challenge with a goal of sourcing a wide range of solutions to better equip patients, support partners, and all those affected by inflammatory bowel disease.

Selected applicants were chosen by Lyfebulb and Arena to pitch their business ventures to a panel of judges comprised of the healthcare industry, medical, and patient leaders over the course of a two-day summit in September. Coral Genomics was selected as the winner and will be awarded a $25,000 monetary award to further the development of our precision medicine solutions for autoimmune patients.

Tuba: We would love to hear about your experience with other finalists at the Challenge.

Atray Dixit: It was an absolute pleasure getting to interact with the other finalists in the competition. Everyone in the competition had a compelling personal association with the disease and was working on fascinating solutions. Three thematic areas that stood out to me were:

  • Technologies to allow patients to monitor their disease remotely with imaging (Asaf at Dieta), smart toilets (Vik at Toi Labs), patient-reported data (Iraklis at Chronicles Health), and even sweat (Sriram at Enlisense). 
  • Integrative care models that care for the spectrum of patient needs from mental health to dietary health (Sam at Oshi, David at GI Trak, Ali at Allay, and Elena at Bold Health)
  • Blood measurements of disease progression and drug response (Avinoam at Glycominds and us)

I’ve certainly been inspired by the companies working in the first two areas and try to incorporate those aspects into the ways we’re approaching patient care.

Tuba: Please tell us briefly what are the unmet needs in the IBD space and how Coral Genomics plans to address them?

Atray Dixit: IBD is an extremely challenging disease. The challenges are as heterogeneous in nature as the underlying biology of the disease. These challenges range from the social stigma associated with bowel issues, to the challenge of standardizing the collection of disease severity measures, to flawed preclinical models. 

Coral’s specific goal within the set of unmet needs is to improve therapeutic response, bringing the kind of precision medicine that exists in cancer to autoimmunity. Autoimmunity is a broad spectrum of diseases, but there is a lot of overlap in the treatments used. Despite the fact that it recently surpassed cancer as an area of drug spend in the U.S., efforts to personalize treatment to a patient’s disease biology is in their infancy across autoimmune diseases

Specifically, patients and doctors struggle through a trial and error process, often dictated by which medications their health insurance will allow, as they search for an option that works. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests the longer patients spend without adequate treatment, the worse they will do. Patients whose disease severity escalates greatly will need surgery. Coral is working on new clinical tests to guide medication selection, streamlining the prior authorization health insurance companies impose for drug approval, as well as a new therapeutic option based on some of the findings of our clinical studies.

In the long term, it is my hope that earlier detection coupled with effective interventions will improve the long-term prognosis for patients with IBD. I believe our efforts will be a part of that shift. 

Tuba: What is Coral Genomics? What makes Coral Genomics different from other companies working in the same domain?

Atray Dixit: Coral Genomics is a precision medicine company that started with technological innovations in the cost of performing cellular assays. In cancer, a driver mutation in a gene like BRCA1 can be largely responsible for the biology of a disease. It has been possible in some cases to get treatments uniquely matched to the key mutations for cancer patients. In autoimmunity, these one-to-one associations between mutation and treatment have been hard to find. The diseases are believed to be caused by a combination of multiple genetic factors and a patient's environmental exposures. 

In the absence of simple one-to-one relationships, companies attempting to approach precision medicine for autoimmunity have worked to find correlations between exposures to certain microbes or certain proteins in the blood to make predictions about the different subtypes of disease and how that might relate to treatment response. 

Coral’s unique approach involves performing cellular assays on immune cells from thousands of patients to obtain causal relationships between a patient’s immune system and their likelihood of responding to therapy. We call our repository of immune cells from diverse patient populations our Reef. We believe we will be able to learn enough from experiments in our Reef to reduce the trial and error struggle that doctors and patients have to go through in order to find appropriate treatments.

Tuba: Kindly tell us about Coral’s current pipeline and future plans in IBD?

Atray Dixit: We recently obtained our first batch of clinical study results across three different autoimmune conditions, one of which was IBD. We were able to significantly predict which medications a patient failed to respond to or responded well to retrospectively. We are planning a prospective study next year in which we will determine the extent to which patients whose treatment is guided by our clinical test ultimately fare better than the standard of care. 

Additionally, we are excited about recent in vitro validation data we generated on novel combination therapy. One of the main classes of drugs for autoimmune diseases involves TNF inhibition. There is a wide spectrum in how well they work for different patients. Since our Reef consists of living cells from diverse patient populations, we were curious to see if we could add a new drug that improves the uniformity of TNF inhibition across patients and cell types. The new combination drug we have come up with based on our Reef resulted in uniform TNF inhibition in vitro.

Source: Dr. Axe

About Author: Atray Dixit is the Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer at Coral Genomics. He received a BSE degree in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from Princeton University in 2012 and his Ph.D. through MIT’s Health Sciences and Technology program. Atray also developed new methods to enable large combinatorial screens such as Shuffle-seq.

Related Post: PharmaShots Interview: Medidata’s Ben Schlatka Shares Insights on Agreement with Labcorp to Advance the Use of Medical-Grade Sensors



Tuba was Senior Editor at PharmaShots. She was curious, creative, and passionate about recent updates and innovations in the life sciences industry. She covered Biopharma, MedTech, and Digital health segments. Tuba also had an experience in digital and social media marketing and ran the campaigns independently. She can be contacted at [email protected].

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