Vedanta, a Massachusetts-based biotech, made headlines last year when it rounded up $50 million to push a pipeline of therapies that targeted the microbiome, the population of gut bacteria that are thought to play a role in many diseases, including cancer. Currently, the company is an affiliate of PureTech Health, the partnership aimed at creating immune-boosting cancer therapies that capitalize on the microbiome.
Vedanta has teamed up with Japan-based JSR to push a set of biotech compounds that activate CD8+ T cells, the white blood cells that play a key role in helping the immune system to recognize and attack cancer. The experimental therapies are derived from bacteria that live in the gu. They stemmed from research done at Keio University School of Medicine and the University of Tokyo in Japan.
Vedanta was named among the Fierce 15 class of 2016 and has had its most success so far in field of digestive diseases. It formed an alliance with Johnson & Johnson in 2014 to create a microbiome-based compound to treat inflammatory bowel disease, and it’s preparing a treatment for C. difficile for human testing.
However, Vedanta was founded in 2010 on the notion it could address a wide range of diseases beyond the GI tract by building a library of microbial strains that either up-regulate the immune response or inhibit it. Utilizing the microbiome to combat cancer was one of the company’s priorities.
Vedanta is in the process of developing compounds containing bacteria that activate CD8+ T cells. They are studying them alone and with checkpoint inhibitors for fighting cancer. The JSR partnership “further strengthens Vedanta’s leading IP position in the microbiome field,” according to CEO Bernat Olle.
The potential to grasp the microbiome to fight disease continues to drive deals in the biotech sector. Recently, microbiome startups Crestovo and Finch Therapeutics merged. Finch recently started phase 2 testing of its C. difficile treatment. Last month, Eligo Bioscience raised $20 million to push its lead compound, which uses gene editing technology to selectively kill gut bacteria.
Seres, a publicly held microbiome pioneer, struggled to recover from a failed phase 2 trial of its drug for C. difficile, but it has now advanced that drug into a phase 3 trial. It posted early-stage data recently from a trial of its drug to treat ulcerative colitis. Vedanta has not released financial details from its licensing agreement with JSR, however it does not expect to file for FDA approval to begin human testing of the lead immuno-oncology compound from the collaboration in 2018.