Sean F. Brady, Ph.D.
Sean F. Brady, Ph.D.

Genentech, a member of the Roche Group, will partner with Lodo Therapeutics to develop new drugs based on Lodo’s metagenomics-based natural products drug discovery platform, through a collaboration that the New York startup said today could generate for it nearly $1 billion-plus.

The companies have signed a strategic drug discovery collaboration, through which Genentech agreed to use Lodo’s genome mining and biosynthetic cluster assembly platform to identify novel molecules with therapeutic potential against multiple unspecified “disease-related” targets of interest to Genentech.

“Genentech is committed to accessing innovative technologies, and we are excited to collaborate with Lodo Therapeutics to apply their Metagenomics Technology Platform to potentially discover therapeutics for difficult drug targets,” James Sabry, M.D., Ph.D., SVP and global head of Genentech Partnering, said in a statement.

The companies’ announcement did not specify the targets or the disease areas of interest to the collaboration. According to its website, Lodo focuses on fighting drug-resistant microbial infections and cancers. Infectious diseases and oncology are among Genentech’s areas of therapeutic focus, as are immunology, neuroscience, metabolism, and ophthalmology.

Lodo was created to commercialize research by Sean F. Brady, Ph.D., who heads The Rockefeller University’s Laboratory of Genetically Encoded Small Molecules. His lab’s research centers on the discovery and characterization of new, genetically encoded small molecules from microbial sources, with a special focus on those produced by uncultured soil bacteria, human commensal bacteria, and pathogenic bacteria.

Dr. Brady is a co-founder and scientific advisor to Lodo, which says it aims to identify and produce bioactive natural products directly from the microbial DNA sequence information contained in soil.

Reducing Blood Glucose Levels

Last year, Dr. Brady led researchers from Rockefeller University and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai in publishing a study detailing a method of genetically engineering bacteria to produce molecules that have the potential to treat certain disorders by altering human metabolism. In a test of their system on mice, the introduction of modified gut bacteria led to reduced blood glucose levels and other metabolic changes in the animals.

“Our results suggest that chemical mimicry of eukaryotic signalling molecules may be common among commensal bacteria and that manipulation of microbiota genes encoding metabolites that elicit host cellular responses represents a possible small-molecule therapeutic modality (microbiome-biosynthetic gene therapy),” Dr. Brady and colleagues concluded in their paper “Commensal Bacteria Make GPCR Ligands That Mimic Human Signalling Molecules,” published in Nature.

Lodo says that approach is expected to benefit biopharmas by reducing the time and cost of drug discovery. The company also notes that compounds derived from natural products account for many of the small-molecule drugs used to treat cancer, infections, and chronic illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes.

Genetech agreed to pay Lodo an undisclosed up-front payment; up to $969 million tied to achieving research, development, and commercialization milestones; and tiered-royalties on sales of certain products resulting from the collaboration.

“Lodo Therapeutics’ proprietary drug discovery platform is a powerful engine for identifying novel compounds with important therapeutic potential,” said Lodo CEO Thong Q. Le, M.D., who is also CEO of Accelerator Life Science Partners.

Accelerator launched Lodo in 2016 with $17 million in Series A financing, as the second startup in its New York City portfolio. Participating investors included Alexandria Real Estate Equities, owner–manager of the Alexandria Center for Life Science in New York, where Lodo is based; as well as:

  • Biopharmas that include AbbVie, Eli Lilly, and Pfizer;
  • Johnson & Johnson Innovation-JJDC, J&J's strategic venture capital arm;
  • Global CRO WuXi AppTec;
  • The Bill and Melilnda Gates Foundation;
  • Investment entities that include 180O Capital Corp., Arch Venture Partners, Watson Fund, and The Partnership Fund for New York City.
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