Genentech-partnered Novome lands $43.5M to push gastrointestinal drug through mid-stage study
A biotech with connections to Roche’s Genentech has now landed its newest cash infusion.
Microbiome outfit Novome Biotechnologies said Tuesday that it has now secured $43.5 million in new financing via a Series B round. The funds, according to the company, will be used to advance its lead candidate through an ongoing Phase IIa — and advance other candidates for a potential indication in inflammatory bowel disease.
The company’s drug candidates, all preclinical except its lead drug, fall in one of two categories: either 100% owned by Novome, or part of a Genentech collaboration announced late last year. CEO Blake Wise — a Genentech vet and former CEO of Achaogen — joined the company back in early 2020, the same time Novome secured $33 million in a Series A.
The $605 million deal with Genentech got things moving on Genentech’s effort to pursue targets in the human intestine, with the Roche subsidiary having had an interest in that space and observing Novome’s technology for some time, Wise tells Endpoints News.
That deal gave Novome early-stage discovery and development responsibilities for IBD until the IND-enabling stage, at which point Genentech would take on further clinical development and commercialization.
Wise further added that the round will last the company, currently at a headcount of around 40, somewhere around 2-3 years. As for expansion plans, the CEO said they don’t expect to hire a lot more people as a result of the funding.
The company’s current clinical program is an engineered strain of bacteria called NOV-001 — being tested to treat a disease called enteric hyperoxaluria, a side effect of inflammatory bowel disease and gastric bypass that ends up increasing levels of oxalate in the body. Oxalate can combine with calcium to form calcium-oxalate kidney stones, the most common kind of kidney stone.
“We’re mainly looking here at the ability to reduce the oxalate in patients with disease,” the CEO added.
The Phase IIa study this strain is being tested in is expected to read out early next year. A Phase I study read out last year showed that the strain could colonize the human gut and be controlled.
How the company operates, says Wise, is that its strains are engineered to be grafted into the gut and feed off a sugar. A patient would then take the sugar every day, and the microbes would grow in the gut based on how much of that sugar was taken. And those strains can also be used as a delivery mechanism for therapeutic proteins — by engineering the proteins into the bacterial strains, so the gut bacteria expresses the proteins directly. Wise said that this mechanism would bypass the need to deliver these proteins systemically.
On top of hyperoxaluria, the company has more underway in pre-clinical and discovery research in irritable bowel syndrome and immuno-oncology. Wise tells Endpoints that there are other indications that the biotech is looking at beyond IBD — including potentially diabetes, obesity and more.
The round, led by Tencent, included a slate of new investors — University of Minnesota, Navian Investments, Colorcon Ventures and Touchdown Ventures. Previous investors such as DCVC Bio, 5AM Ventures, Alta Partners and Alexandria Venture Investments also pitched in.