Vedanta Biosciences signed a license agreement with Janssen Biotech for Vedanta’s lead microbiome pharmaceutical candidate (VE202) which, the company says, has demonstrated efficacy in published preclinical studies using models of autoimmune disease.

Janssen will develop and aim to commercialize VE202 for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Vedanta will receive an up-front payment and is eligible to receive development and commercialization milestone payments for an IBD indication up to a potential total of $241 million, plus possible additional consideration related to commercialization.

Vedanta may continue to explore other disease indications, and Janssen and Vedanta may elect to develop and commercialize within one or more additional indications with terms similar to the IBD indication, according to officials at both companies. This agreement follows an initial investment that Johnson & Johnson Innovation made in Vedanta in June 2013.

“Vedanta was founded on the belief that the microbiome represents one of the great frontiers of human health. Johnson & Johnson Innovation and Janssen have demonstrated that they share this vision, and we're excited to be working with them to bring this program forward,” noted David Steinberg, interim Vedanta CEO and a partner at PureTech Ventures. He added that VE202  is one of the first potential drugs to emerge from the growing body of research demonstrating the role of the microbiome in human diseases.

“We are very pleased that Vedanta's discovery platform has generated such an exciting candidate and collaboration,” said Bernat Olle, COO of Vedanta. “We've shown that we can start with complex biology and mine the microbiome for potent pharmaceutical products.”

The development of VE202 originated from work conducted initially at the University of Tokyo. Kenya Honda, Ph.D., showed that specific gut-dwelling bacteria control key immune cells that combat autoimmune diseases.