Evelo Biosciences and Epiva BioSciences have merged to create a combined immuno-microbiome company focused on developing next-generation immunotherapies for cancer and autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.

The value of the deal was not disclosed in today’s announcement by Flagship Ventures, whose VentureLabs innovation foundry founded both companies in 2014.

Evelo has said it was the first company systematically to identify, characterize, and understand the biology of cancer-associated bacteria, whereas Epiva was founded to treat conditions characterized by inflammation and aberrant immune responses by modulating the systemic microbiome, the host immune–bacteria interface.

The merged company will keep the name Evelo Biosciences and operate under the leadership of CEO and President, Simba Gill, Ph.D., and chairman Noubar Afeyan, Ph.D., who is also CEO of Flagship Ventures.

The combined company said it will establish the definitive immuno-microbiome therapeutics platform, building upon Evelo’s and Epiva’s recognition that the microbiome and immune system interact to form the immuno-microbiome, an uncharacterized metasystem that the companies say is also largely unrecognized.

Evelo will specialize in deciphering interactions between the immune system and the microbiome, with the goal of discovering novel therapeutics. The company said it is working to advance “a range of product candidates” toward first human testing in 2017.

“As the microbiome field begins to turn its attention to diseases beyond gut infections, we see the combination of these two first-mover companies as an important strategic development aimed at creating sufficient critical mass to lead the field,” Dr. Afeyan said in a statement.

The merged company will employ 42 people and build on research findings, product candidates, and intellectual property of Evelo and Epiva, protected by more than 50 patents and applications. Flagship said it has financed the company with about $40 million to date and plans to make unspecified additional investments intended to support its rapid growth.

“With our expanded team working together on the immuno-microbiome, we expect to more rapidly advance multiple new product candidates into the clinic, build partnerships, and deliver important treatments to patients who need them,” Dr. Gill added.

Drs. Gill and Afeyan will be joined on Evelo's Board of Directors by co-founder David Berry, M.D., Ph.D.; David Perry, CEO and President of Indigo Agriculture; and Mark Pruzanski, M.D., co-founder, CEO and President of Intercept Pharmaceuticals.

The new Evelo has also named three executives to its leadership team: Jackie Papkoff, Ph.D., svp, research; Anil Jina, M.D., CMO; and Derek Adams, Ph.D., svp, CMC.

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