4:30 PM
 | 
Jan 12, 2017
 |  BC Innovations  |  Targets & Mechanisms

Gut control

Three new avenues for using the microbiome to treat obesity

As evidence mounts linking obesity to the microbiome, three independent studies have identified separate ways of harnessing gut microbiota to treat the condition. The spectrum of approaches, which involve a bacterial protein, a bacterial species and a gut signature, reflects the complexity and new thinking involved in harnessing the microbiome for therapeutics, and is likely a sign of the broad strategies companies will need to adopt to make headway in the rapidly emerging field.

The three papers were published late last year in different Nature journals, and have thus far translated into an early clinical trial and plans for a spinout, with two of the groups fast to file IP.

The third group declined to disclose the IP status for this study. However, a microbiome analysis platform developed by the same investigators was spun out to create RondinX, whose launch was announced last week.

While early translational work on the microbiome aimed at treating a handful of gastrointestinal (GI) disorders and infections, rapid scientific progress has opened a wide range of therapeutic and diagnostic applications, and spawned a steady stream of newcos and pharmas getting into the game.

For gut-related diseases, the list of indications and strategies is growing as research uncovers how GI microbes can exert effects on distant tissues by modulating immune function, metabolism and the gut-brain axis. For example, several companies are exploring microbiome-based therapies that either activate immune cells to fight cancer or suppress them to treat inflammation and autoimmunity. And at least two microbiome companies, neurology newco Axial Biotherapeutics Inc. and two-year-old 4D Pharma plc, have preclinical programs leveraging the gut-brain axis to treat autism.

Dirk Gevers, global head of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Human Microbiome Institute (JHMI), told BioCentury he thinks metabolic disease is one of the principal areas where microbiome-based therapies will gain traction. His company sees the microbiome as a key tool for attacking disease before its onset, as part of its “disease interception” initiative.

At least 13 other companies have announced programs or collaborations focused on the microbiome in metabolic disease (see “Tapping the Microbiome for metabolic Disease”).

Table: Tapping the microbiome for metabolic disease

Microbiome companies and institutionsDescriptionStatusDate of collaboration
Brigham and Women’s Hospital; OpenBiomeCollaboration to test fecal microbiota transplantation to treat obesity using oral capsules containing samples from the company’s healthy donor stool bankPhase I/IIApril 2016
Massachusetts General Hospital; Seres Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ:MCRB)Collaboration to identify strains of bacteria administered as oral capsules for obesity and metabolic syndromePhase I/IIAugust 2015
MicroBiome Therapeutics LLCNM504, the company’s β-glucan- and insulin-based prebiotic product,...

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