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Microbiotica mines $534m for 'new paradigm in biology'

The Wellcome Genome Campus
The Wellcome Genome Campus

Microbiome's IBD potential proves attractive to Roche's Genentech

Microbiotica Dr Mike Romanos, Microbiotica, Biodata Innovation Centre, Wellcome Genome Campus, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell
Microbiotica Dr Mike Romanos, Microbiotica, Biodata Innovation Centre, Wellcome Genome Campus, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

Microbiome-focused research firm Microbiotica has announced a major collaboration with Genentech, the Roche group firm, which is working to resolve irritable bowel disease (IBD).

Microbiotica was only established in 2016 but microbiome research is experiencing a rapid phase of discovery, and under the terms of the deal Microbiotica will receive “up to $534million in upfront and milestone payments”.

The two firms will combine to harvest the opportunities of this new medical front. Microbiotica, which is based at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, has developed the world’s leading microbiome culture collection and linked reference genome database. This offers unprecedented precision of gut bacterial identification at clinical trial scale.

The platform will accelerate the commercialisation of San Francisco-based Genentech’s IBD pipeline.

Dr Mike Romanos, CEO of Microbiotica, said: “This collaboration brings together a world-class pipeline of investigational IBD medicines from Genentech with the world-class microbiome capability of Microbiotica.

“We are excited by the opportunity to work with Genentech scientists in order to bring precision metagenomics into the clinical arena for the first time, enabling us to develop biomarkers and medicines for the benefit of patients.”

Dr James Sabry, senior vice president and global head of Genentech Partnering, said: “We believe the microbiome represents a new paradigm in biomedicine, both for understanding drug response and as a novel therapeutic modality. We have chosen to collaborate with Microbiotica because of its high-quality science and look forward to working together to potentially bring new medicines to people suffering from IBD.”

Microbiotica was formed 18 months ago with funding from Cambridge Innovation Capital and IP Group to commercialise ground-breaking microbiome science at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, from the laboratory of Dr Trevor Lawley, CSO of Microbiotica.

As well as the Wellcome Genome Campus site, Microbiotica has offices at the Biodata Innovation Centre and laboratories in the Sanger Institute.

The firm’s co-founder, Dr Romanos has a 30-year track record in Cambridge’s life sciences sector including being executive director of Crescendo Biologics and an international role at GlaxoSmithKline R&D.

While the collaboration with Genentech is identifying IBD medicines, Genentech also has an option to license assets that Microbiotica develops as a result of the research collaboration. Microbiotica will receive an undisclosed upfront payment and is eligible to receive “research, development and commercialisation milestone payments up to $534million based on achievement of certain predetermined milestones”.

Meanwhile, the science is tremendously exciting.

“There’s no question that microbiome is a new paradigm in biology,” Dr Romanos told the Cambridge Independent.

- A Cambridge Independent interview with Dr Ramonos will appear on June 27.

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