New firm wins £8M initial funding from CIC and IP Group

The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute has spun out a new company, Microbiotica, to develop bacteriotherapies for a potentially wide range of diseases, based on the natural balance of bacteria that make up the healthy gut microbiome. Microbiotica has received initial funding of £4 million ($4.97 million) from Cambridge Innovation Capital, and another £4 million from IP Group.

Microbiotica will be based at the Wellcome Genome Campus in Hinxton, Cambridge (U.K.), and exploit research by the Sanger Institute's Host-Microbiotica Interactions Laboratory (HMIL) into the role of the human microbiome in health and disease and its potential clinical applications. Combined DNA sequencing and novel culturing approaches by the HMIL's Trevor Lawley, Ph.D., and Professor Gordon Dougan has already resulted in what they claim is the world’s largest culture collection of intestinal bacteria and reference genome library. Dr. Lawley’s team has in addition derived humanized models for the development of live bacterial therapeutics.

Microbiotica will harness these resources to identify specific disease-related bacteria, patient-stratification strategies, and novel therapeutics. The firm says harnessing the microbiome could provide opportunities for developing diagnostics and therapies for diseases, including enteric infections, autoimmune and metabolic disorders, cancer, and neurological diseases. In addition, Microbiotica has  been granted exclusive rights to potentially therapeutic bacterial mixes, which it aims to progress into preclinical development during the next year.

The concept that the gut microbes might be involved in diseases such as neurodegenerative disorders or even spinal trauma may at first sight seem improbable. However, earlier this month California Institute of Technology researchers reported on a functional link between intestinal bacteria and Parkinson’s disease. And in October a GEN podcast detailed Ohio State University research describing the impact that the gut microbiome has on spinal cord injury and the use of probiotics to speed recovery.

“Our work at the Sanger Institute has shown that the human microbiome is important for health and disease, and is itself a therapeutic target,” commented Dr. Lawley, who has been appointed Microbiotica CSO. “I am delighted that the establishment of Microbiotica will allow us to harness the therapeutic potential of the complex microbial community in the body to create novel treatments and help improve human health.”

Sam Williams, Ph.D., head of biotech at IP Group, added, “by exploring the fundamentals of gut flora distribution and genetics, Microbiotica has an opportunity to take a lead in the understanding how the microbiome can be used to not only develop new therapeutics for a range of diseases, but also how to stratify patients according to their microbial profile, identify links with disease, and exploit its full potential for human healthcare.”


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