When it comes to tinkering with the multitude of bacteria residing in our bodies for disease treatment, antibiotics has been the go-to for eliminating bad ones while the burgeoning crop of microbiome biotechs aim to add “good” microbes to the mix. But a Weizmann Institute spinout working out of the Kendall Square of Israel is charting a path between those two approaches with the clinical stop in sight.
BiomX’s precision tool, which utilizes a customized concoction of phages to kill specific bacteria associated with disease, has won the backing of OrbiMed, J&J and Takeda Ventures, among others, since its early days. Two years later, the syndicate is coming back for more, with a sizable group of new investors tagging along for a $32 million round as the biotech begins testing its phage cocktails in acne and inflammatory bowel disease.
Having nailed down the phage therapy — a topical gel — for acne and cross-checked the targets with samples from hundreds of patients, BiomX’s 60-person team is looking to gather some proof-of-mechanism data by the end of the year, CEO Jonathan Solomon tells me.
Additionally, they are cooking up treatments for cancer and liver disease that should follow in the clinic soon after the IBD program also begins human testing in 2020. The growing body of scientific work elucidating links of bacteria like Helicobacter pylori and Fusobacterium nucleatum to gastric and colorectal cancers has driven investors’ interest in BiomX, he says.
“We’re betting that there’s more and more cases like that,” he adds, where they could find specific bacteria driving disease and have a precision tool ready “just to take out what we think is the culprit.”
Down the line, their approach might lend itself to combination regimens where they can team up with other microbiome drugs to add good, protective bacteria after taking out the bad ones. But they would prefer to prove one thing at a time.
BiomX is also working with key investor J&J on biomarker development, using the gut microbiome to identify responders for one of the pharma giant’s key IBD drugs, chief business officer Assaf Oron says.
New backers for the round — many of which have been looking at the company for a while, according to Solomon — include RM Global Partners, Chong Kun Dang Pharmaceutical, Handok, KB Investment and Consensus Business Group. Existing investors 8VC, MiraeAsset, Seventure Partners and SBI Japan-Israel Innovation Fund also joined in.
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