On the hunt for bugs outside the gut, Seed Health snares $40M round to advance pipeline with the help of George Church
In 2017, as “microbiome mania” was setting in, Raja Dhir and Ara Katz launched Seed Health to go broad where others went small. While most other players focused on the gut, Dhir said, Seed set out to understand microbial communities in the gut and elsewhere, such as in the mouth or on the skin.
“Most people don’t know that cavities are the most common bacterial infection in the world,” he said.
On Wednesday, the LA-based biotech — advised by famed Harvard scientist George Church — unveiled a $40 million Series A round to continue the hunt for innovations and therapies that utilize ecologies of naturally occurring bacteria.
“Beyond the gut, there’s microbial communities which still are understudied and poorly defined, and interventional trials and interventional data [are] lacking,” Dhir told Endpoints News. “So that’s the first real push, or differentiation, or opportunity that we see.”
Prior to launching Seed, Katz worked in consumer tech. She co-founded a mobile commerce startup called Spring, where she helped launch Apple Pay for iPhone. Then when she got pregnant, she became interested in the impact of microbes on health and the environment. She met Dhir, an entrepreneur who had designed clinical trials with academic institutions like Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, and the two clicked. Dhir knows Church and invited him on board as one of the company’s first advisors.
The biotech’s flagship DS-01, a 24-strain probiotic, is currently in a Phase II trial for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and is also being studied for constipation, post-alcohol gut microbiota restoration, urolithin production and recovery after broad-spectrum antibiotics.
The company also has a live biotherapeutic for urinary tract infection (UTI) that’s expected to enter a Phase II trial in the US later this year in partnership with Luca Biologics, which Seed spun out back in 2019. Concurrent with that study will be a Phase Ib and Phase II in bacterial vaginosis, Dhir explained.
Scientists at Seed start with single strains of bacteria from a master cell bank, then cultivate them in isolation and reconstitute them in varying ratios to build entire ecologies of bacteria that are critical to preventing certain infections. The company is also working on programs for high cholesterol, major depressive disorder and spontaneous preterm birth.
In 2018, the company launched SeedLabs to develop microbial solutions for environmental challenges — including probiotics for bees and corals.
“I am inspired by Seed’s bold vision to ferment the future, using microbes to rethink health,” Church, also a SeedLabs advisor, said in a statement.
Earlier this year, Seed acquired Auggi, an AI startup that analyzes photos of stool samples. Seed says it will use the technology to launch a product that can monitor gastrointestinal health.
“I think there’s such an opportunity with digital health and especially in a post-Covid world, a push towards decentralization of medical records as well as medical treatment and diagnosis,” Dhir said. “It’s the first of a series of digital health initiatives that we have here at Seed.”