A new stratified medicine spin-out from the UK’s Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute has secured £8 million funding – £4m each from Cambridge Innovation Capital and IP Group.
The funds will be used by the newly created business, Microbiotica, to commercialise ground breaking research into gut microbiome and its role in health and disease. It adds another piece to the personalised medicines jigsaw by building on to advanced genomics research and technology.
Based at the Wellcome Genome Campus in Hinxton, Cambridge, Microbiotica will look to develop and commercialise new defined bacteriotherapies based on the human gut microbiome.
Microbiotica has been established to commercialise ground-breaking research, conducted in the Host-Microbiotica Interactions Laboratory (HMIL) at the Sanger Institute, into the role of the human microbiome in health and disease and its application to medicine.
The HMIL is led by Dr Trevor Lawley and collaborates with the Professor Gordon Dougan research group. The Sanger Institute teams have made significant breakthroughs in the analysis and understanding of the human microbiome, combining an extensive DNA sequencing capability with novel culturing methods, to build a first-in-class gut microbiome culture collection and reference genome library.
Since 2010, Dr Lawley’s group has cultured and sequenced the genome of thousands of bacterial strains from the gut of humans, representing the world’s largest culture collection of intestinal bacteria. This has given the group important new insights into the association of these bacteria with a range of diseases. Added to this, the group has developed a leading expertise in humanised models for the development of live bacterial therapeutics and exceptional bioinformatics capability.
Microbiotica has been granted unique access to these resources and capabilities and will use it to gain unparalleled insights into the microbial communities in both healthy and diseased individuals, enabling the identification of specific disease-related bacteria, patient-stratification strategies and novel therapeutics.
The startup has also been granted exclusive rights to existing potentially therapeutic bacterial mixes that have shown striking effects in novel models of disease, and which will be progressed into pre-clinical development over the coming year.
Recognition of the importance of the microbiome, the body’s trillions of resident bacteria, represents a paradigm-shift in our understanding of its impact on human health and disease. This creates major opportunities in the diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of disease including enteric infections, autoimmune disorders, metabolic disorders, cancer and neurological disease.
Microbiotica’s science will be directed by Dr Lawley, who will be chief scientific officer. The company will be led by Dr Mike Romanos who, as CEO brings a wealth of experience as a seasoned drug discoverer and entrepreneur in the biotech sector.
Dr Romanos previously held senior global roles in GSK and as CEO built Crescendo Biologics. Professor Gordon Dougan is also a co-founder. CIC and IP Group will each appoint a director to the board.
The company will use the funds to establish labs within the Wellcome Genome Campus at Hinxton to progress multiple live bacteriotherapy discovery programmes into development.
Dr Romanos said, “It has been a privilege to work with my co-founders Trevor Lawley and Gordon Dougan to create the concept of Microbiotica as a leading player in microbiome-based therapeutics.
“We are very excited to be working with CIC and IP Group to now turn the vision into reality as we start to build the company, based at the Wellcome Genome Campus, leveraging the strengths of the Sanger Institute to create new medicines.”
CIC investment director Dr Robert Tansley, added: “Research into the microbiome is a fascinating area of study with huge commercial potential. We have been working closely with Mike, Trevor, IP Group and the Sanger Institute to ensure that Microbiotica has an excellent foundation and can benefit from the tremendous body of work created by Trevor and his team.
“With our founding investment in Congenica, the genome discovery and diagnostics company, we have been privileged to be instrumental in the creation of two spin-out companies based on world class research from the Sanger Institute.”
Professor Sir Mike Stratton, director of the Sanger Institute, said there were broader implications following the creation of the new business. He said: “The Wellcome Genome Campus is home to research institutes, spin-out and start-up companies, academic-industry partnerships and Genomics England; all dedicated to driving and leading pioneering research and innovation in the sphere of genomes and biodata.
“Microbiotica grew out of Sanger Institute science and I’m delighted that Trevor and his team will continue to be immersed in the intellectual environment on campus.
“The Biodata Innovation Centre and the companies in it is the first major step in our progression of our vision for this campus as a global hub for genomics and biodata.”
• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Professor Sir Mike Stratton
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