Ferring buys up PhIII microbiome drug with acquisition of Rebiotix

A Minnesota company working on a drug that could be the nation’s first pill packed with microbes has been snatched up by Swiss drug maker Ferring Pharmaceuticals.

The startup, called Rebiotix, was acquired in a deal that closed Wednesday with undisclosed terms. The company is developing a fecal microbiota transplant dubbed RBX-2660 that’s currently in Phase III trials. It’s being tested against an infection caused by C difficile, a bacteria that can induce symptoms ranging from diarrhea to life-threatening inflammation of the colon. The infection often occurs in older patients in hospitals or long-term care who happen to be taking antibiotics for a long period of time. Ironically, the standard treatment for C diff is to take the patient off the antibiotic that caused the infection… and then put them on another antibiotic.

Rebiotix’s RBX-2660 works quite differently than an antibiotic. It repopulates the gut microbiome, and the transplanted microbes then go to war with C diff, preventing it from growing and forcing it out of the gut. The treatment could be a game-changer for patients, which is why the FDA gave it fast track, breakthrough, and orphan drug designations.

Michel Pettigrew

Ferring says it’s not picking up Rebiotix just for one asset. It thinks the startup’s drug platform will deliver long-term gains.

“The scientific advances Rebiotix has made add significant strategic value to Ferring’s leadership in gastroenterology,” Michel Pettigrew, COO and president of the executive board at Ferring Pharmaceuticals said in a statement. “Therapies targeted towards the microbiome have the potential to transform healthcare. Together, we have a unique opportunity to help people living with debilitating and life-threatening conditions like Clostridium difficile infection.”

On top of its buyout of Rebiotix, Ferring has been investing in the microbiome space for years. It’s got a license agreement with MyBiotics for its women’s health therapeutics and a research deal with MetaboGen for a microbiome-based treatment for trahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy. The company also has partnerships with research organizations in microbiome arena, including with the Karolinska Institutet and Science for Life Laboratory, and the Centre for Translational Microbiome Research, among others.

Image: Clostridium difficile bacteria, 3D illustration. SHUTTERSTOCK

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
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Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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