Not your mom’s pro­bi­ot­ic: GV-backed Evelo teams up with Mayo Clin­ic on mi­cro­bio­me drugs

Google Ven­tures-backed Evelo is join­ing forces with the Mayo Clin­ic to de­vel­op and even­tu­al­ly com­mer­cial­ize a fam­i­ly of gut bugs as med­i­cine.

You read that right. Evelo’s re­search is based on the idea that mi­crobes found in the gut can in­flu­ence bi­o­log­i­cal sys­tems through­out the rest of the body. If true, that means nat­u­ral­ly oc­cur­ring hu­man mi­crobes could po­ten­tial­ly be de­vel­oped as a new class of med­i­cine, the com­pa­ny’s CEO Sim­ba Gill tells me.

“What we have is a new modal­i­ty of med­i­cine that al­lows for oral, safe, con­ve­nient, and high­ly ef­fi­ca­cious drugs,” Gill said. “Sin­gle mi­crobes will act as med­i­cine to treat dis­ease.”

Mayo’s mi­crobes

Evelo calls these med­i­cine-wor­thy bugs “mon­o­clon­al mi­cro­bials,” and they’re not the on­ly ones in­trigued by their po­ten­tial phar­ma­co­log­i­cal us­es. The Mayo Clin­ic has been look­ing in­to this field for sev­er­al years, and re­cent­ly pub­lished da­ta in Cell and Arthri­tis and Rheuma­tol­ogy show­ing that pop­ping pills packed with cer­tain mi­cro­bials could sup­press mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis and rheuma­toid arthri­tis. Mayo proved that in mice, and now Evelo wants to take the strain in­to the clin­ic.

The deal with Mayo gets Evelo a world­wide ex­clu­sive li­cense to the strains and sur­round­ing IP. The com­pa­ny did not dis­close the fi­nan­cial de­tails of the deal.

“This col­lab­o­ra­tion pro­vides us a new strain and fam­i­ly of mi­crobes backed by strong in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty,” Gill said. “Mayo has done great foun­da­tion­al work, and now we can rapid­ly take this fam­i­ly of mi­crobes in­to de­vel­op­ment by next year.”

Evelo isn’t di­vulging ex­act­ly which dis­eases it will take on first, but did say they’ll be look­ing in­to in­flam­ma­to­ry and neu­roin­flam­ma­to­ry dis­eases.

Evelo’s ex­ist­ing pipeline

As a com­pa­ny, Evelo emerged in 2016 by com­bin­ing two fledg­ling star­tups in­cu­bat­ed by Flag­ship Pi­o­neer­ing. Backed with $100 mil­lion from in­vestors in­clud­ing GV and Flag­ship, the com­pa­ny has been busy tak­ing on this am­bi­tious task of cre­at­ing a new drug modal­i­ty.

“What we’re do­ing is not straight for­ward,” Gill said. “Most peo­ple look at bal­anc­ing the gut ecosys­tem be­cause that’s the low hang­ing fruit. We went for the com­plex, more chal­leng­ing ap­proach. And that’s why we’re ahead of every­one else in this space.”

The new mi­crobes from Mayo add to Evelo’s ex­ist­ing vil­lage of mi­cro­bial fam­i­lies. The com­pa­ny is eval­u­at­ing how spe­cif­ic mi­crobes might in­flu­ence how the body’s im­mune sys­tem re­sponds to melanoma, re­nal and col­orec­tal can­cer, among oth­er dis­ease ar­eas. Gill was mum on ex­act­ly how many strains and pro­grams are on­go­ing, but said “sev­er­al” would en­ter the clin­ic next year.

The fu­ture of med­i­cine

Joseph Mur­ray

Gill has a rather bold pre­dic­tion that mon­o­clon­al mi­cro­bials will rev­o­lu­tion­ize med­i­cine.

“One of the rea­sons we’re so ex­cit­ed about this space is that — for many, many dif­fer­ent dis­eases — mon­o­clon­al mi­cro­bials could be used in com­bi­na­tion with or even dis­place bi­o­log­ics.”

And Mayo Clin­ic seems to agree.

“Our stud­ies show that hu­man de­rived mi­crobes can be used to treat mul­ti­ple im­muno­log­i­cal dis­eases well be­yond the gut,” said Joseph Mur­ray, pro­fes­sor of med­i­cine at Mayo Clin­ic.

Like the ad­vent of mon­o­clon­al an­ti­bod­ies, Gill be­lieves mon­o­clon­al mi­cro­bials will lead to a new wave of smarter drugs — more ef­fi­ca­cious, less tox­ic, and broad­ly ap­plic­a­ble to sev­er­al dis­ease ar­eas.

“Ef­fi­ca­cy, tox­i­c­i­ty, and con­ve­nience are the key at­trib­ut­es we’re look­ing at,” Gill said.

In those ar­eas so far, Gill said mon­o­clon­al mi­cro­bials’ per­for­mance is “strik­ing” in com­par­i­son to bi­o­log­ics.

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