Our body is composed of approximately 100 trillion microbial cells, corresponding to 10-times more than our human cells. Most of these microorganisms are inoffensive, and very many are important for our health (e.g. helping digest food and fend off infections). Some of them are however harmful to their human hosts and have been linked to the occurrence of acne, eczema, gastric ulcers and even obesity. Together, the microbial cells inhabiting our body make up what is called the “microbiome”.
The Human Microbiome Project, launched in 2008 by the U.S. National Institute of Health, together with other initiatives, was an important mark to a better understanding of such microorganisms and their interactions and effects on the human body. The generated knowledge around microbiome is now attracting the interest of the biotechnology industry. Several companies, sprouted up in recent years, aim at developing new therapies that alter the microbiome for the benefit of human health. For instance, probiotics (beneficial gut bacteria) have become a quite famous therapy recently, and they are routinely included in foods, drinks and supplements. As a recent and important field, new microbiome-derived drugs and therapies will come to the market during next years. In this regard, the very beginning of 2015 is rising expectations with several investments around the microbiome industry.
Some few weeks ago, LaBiotech.eu announced that Nestle Health Science (a subsidiary of Nestle) made an investment round of €57 million in Seres Health, a clinical-stage therapeutics company based in the US and focused on discovering and developing drugs to treat microbiome-related diseases. Seres’ first clinical program is about the treatment of Clostridium difficile infection, one of the most important causes of infectious diarrhea. With this investment, Nestle Health Science expects to meet the goal of addressing health conditions in the area of gastrointestinal, metabolic and brain health.
Last January 9th, Seventure Partners (one of the Europe’s leaders in financing innovation) announced an immediate investment of €1 million in MaaT Pharma, and committed to investing a further €1 million on achievement of scientific milestones. MaaT Pharma is a newly French company that aims to become the leader in the gut microbiome restoration arena. The company will use the seed round proceeds to develop a safe and standardized microbiotherapy solution for hospital use, intended for patients suffering from treatment-induced microbial imbalance.
On January 12th, great news emerged once again for the microbiome industry. The US-based company Second Genome, a pioneer in medicines development through microbiome science, said it has advanced its lead drug candidate into first human trial (Phase I). This drug, simply known as SGM-1019, has the potential to be a safe and well-tolerated oral therapy for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). IBD is caused by a dysregulated immune response to host intestinal microflora, and encompasses ulcerative colitis and Crohn disease.
Microbiome industry is increasing exponentially, and next months and years promise to be quite busy in this field. So what’s next?