Looking to push checkpoint efficacy, a quiet microbiome upstart bags $67M for clinical work

Endpoints News article | By Paul Schloesser

Microbiotica has some more funds to work with — $67 million more.

The quiet microbiome therapeutics spinout with 48 employees announced its Series B earlier this morning, which was co-led by Swedish investor Flerie Invest alongside Chinese multinational conglomerate Tencent. Other investors hopped onto the round, including new investor British Patient Capital and existing investors Cambridge Innovation Capital, IP Group, and Seventure Partners.

Microbiotica chief Mike Romanos told Endpoints News that the raise from the series round will last the biotech about three years. And in terms of an IPO, the company is interested, and “it’s on our minds,” Romanos said. But as far as a timeline or location, that remains to be seen.

The outfit originally started up out of the Wellcome Sanger Institute in the UK back in 2016 to focus more on microbiome science, and since then it has kept its partnerships mostly academic, with the exception of Roche subsidiary Genentech. And so far, the biotech has been looking into two things: 1) biomarkers for drug response, drug side effects or disease progression; and 2) live bacterial therapeutics, a category of treatments that is basically human and microbial living cells selected, modified, or engineered to treat/cure disease.

And in the case of Microbiotica, its two lead candidates fit this category — utilizing specific bacteria in a capsule to undergo targeted release in a patient.

As to where the money is headed, Microbiotica will be pushing its lead candidates into Phase Ib early next year. The first drug, MB097, is a patient response booster for immune checkpoint inhibitor therapies, aka Keytruda, Opdivo, Yervoy and Tecentriq.

Romanos said that the company had noticed increased levels of certain bacteria in patients that responded to certain checkpoint inhibitors, and then looked into whether or not those bacteria, when given to patients, could increase response rates to these checkpoint inhibitor drugs.

“We took those bacteria, and we found that hey, presto, they stimulate immune cells from humans, from donors in the test tube, ultimately to kill tumors in the test tube,” Romanos said. “So we think that they are involved in controlling the immune system and stimulating it so that the cytotoxic T cells and other cells can kill the tumors.”

The other candidate, MB310, is an LBT with certain types of bacteria to treat ulcerative colitis (UC). Those bacteria that were identified and part of the candidate have been potentially linked to remission in fecal transplant studies, according to Microbiotica.

The funds will also be used to expand Microbiotica’s discovery pipeline of biomarkers and LBTs in new disease areas. Microbiotica also has two more early-stage LBT candidates in its pipeline, one for epithelial gut wall repair and another for a “novel disease area.” And while Romanos wouldn’t say exactly what disease the company is wanting to go after, he did say that it’s in the realm of metabolics.

Romanos also said that while people talk about the clinical failures that have faced microbiome treatments in the past (such as the FDA slapping a hold on Finch’s microbiome C. difficile treatment last week), he thinks all the pieces are there for microbiome treatments to expand.

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