The early-stage venture arm for the Lundbeck Foundation has launched a biotech startup that has set sail on the vast microbiome sea. The new company — SNIPR Biome — plans to advance its CRISPR Cas tech to prune targeted bacteria. And the biotech has its eye on going into humans in 2021 as it starts to tackle a wide variety of targets that could be influenced by a tailored immune system response.
Lundbeckfonden Emerge is leading a syndicate that provided the $50 million the biotech will use to reach for proof-of-concept human data for what they’re working on.
The big idea here is that the biotech has found a way to hijack a natural defensive mechanism, instructing bacteria “to commit suicide by using their own endogenous CRISPR Cas system,” Christian Grøndahl, co-founder and CEO, tells me. Grøndahl is a high-profile figure in European biotech circles. He earlier helmed Kymab, a European antibody developer which specialized in a mouse platform tech for developing new antibodies.
SNIPR can target specific bacteria, says the CEO, with preclinical proof-of-concept data gathered over the last 18 months to demonstrate how it works.
“We have now positive in vitro and in vivo data on all the bacteria we tried to eradicate,” says Grøndahl. And they’re doing it with specificity, carving out a particular strain while leaving the rest of the vast microbiome alone.
There are some obvious applications with infections, he adds, but the company will be steering clear of any field already addressed by antibiotics and go after “dire” conditions where there are no available therapies. Following that, he adds, there are new applications they can go after, in combination approaches with immuno-oncology therapies or in autoimmune diseases, where researchers are looking for ways to dial up or dial down an immune response.
Lundbeckfonden has helped seed the effort, which dates back now to the summer of 2017, says the CEO. The team has grown to 18, with plans to grow that considerably now that the A round is in place.
If all goes according to plan, he adds, they’ll be in humans in about 2 years. The money — sizable in European circles — should last three to three-and-a-half years.
Lundbeckfonden Emerge was set up by the independent Lundbeck Foundation to back early-stage research work coming out of the labs in Copenhagen. The foundation owns a majority interest in Lundbeck, now run by Deborah Dunsire, but the venture work is organized independently from the company. They joined hands with LSP and the North-East Family Office in Copenhagen with Munich-based Wellington Partners to provide the launch round.
Image: Christian Grøndahl. LUNDBECKFONDEN
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