4:51 PM
 | 
Feb 08, 2018
 |  BC Innovations  |  Product R&D

Debugging the microbiome

How BiomX is using bacteriophages to modulate the microbiome

BiomX Ltd. is moving phage therapies beyond infectious disease and into chronic conditions driven by the microbiome. The Israeli biotech has pieced together a suite of tools that can identify bad actors within microbial communities and design cocktails of phages to selectively target them.

Bacteriophages, or phages, are viruses that infect and kill bacteria. They are highly selective for individual bacterial species or sometimes strains, and attack the bugs by different mechanisms from antibiotics.

Several infectious disease companies are implementing strategies to use phages as narrow-spectrum antibiotics that can overcome resistance to marketed therapies. Three of them -- AmpliPhi Biosciences Corp., Pherecydes Pharma S.A. and Phico Therapeutics Ltd. -- have entered Phase I or Phase I/II testing.

BiomX CEO Jonathan Solomon told BioCentury phages also attack commensal bacteria and offer an opportunity to target organisms that could be responsible for a wide range of chronic diseases. BiomX has a pipeline of preclinical natural and engineered bacteriophage therapies capable of eliminating specific bacterial strains from the microbiome.

“Antibiotics are good at taking out bugs, but can’t do it in a very selective way. We’re deploying phages to take out specific bugs in the microbiome,” said Solomon.

BiomX believes that approach sets it apart from others in the space. More than 15 companies have disclosed microbiome-based programs to treat chronic conditions, but most aim to boost levels of beneficial bacteria or deliver bacterial-derived factors.

“The field is just exploding. But a lot of the companies are trying to add bacteria. We thought, ‘what about trying to take it out?’” said Solomon.

Since its inception in OrbiMed Advisors’ FutuRx incubator three years ago, BiomX has been aggregating technologies from academic groups and companies to a build a platform for making measurements capable of linking bacterial strains to diseases, identifying bacteriophages that can target the bugs, and engineering modifications into the phages to boost efficacy and extend their reach to related bacterial strains.

“The capability of looking at how bacteria respond to a stimulus and the capability of looking at their growth rate is completely differentiated. I’m not aware of any other companies doing this.”

Jonathan Solomon, BiomX

In May 2017, the company raised $24 million in series A funding in a round led by OrbiMed, the Johnson & Johnson Innovation - JJDC Inc. unit of Johnson & Johnson, and Takeda Ventures. In December, BiomX acquired Weizmann Institute of Science spinout RondinX for its bacterial target identification technology.

Last week, BiomX gained access to a set of bacterial targets discovered by Kenya...

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