Ara Katz (L) and Raja Dhir (Seed)

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.”

Biotech in­vestors and CEOs see two paths to growth, but are they equal­ly vi­able?

The dynamic in the biotech market has been highly volatile in the last few years, from the high peaks immediately after the COVID vaccine in 2021, to the lowest downturns of the last 20 years in 2022. This uncertainty makes calling the exact timing of the market’s turn something of a fool’s errand, according to Dr. Chen Yu, Founder and Managing Partner of TCG Crossover (TCG X). He speaks with RBC’s Noël Brown, Head of US Biotechnology Investment Banking, about the market’s road ahead and two possible paths for growth.

Casey McPherson shows his daughters Rose (left) and Weston around Everlum Bio, a lab that he co-founded to spark a treatment for Rose and others with ultra-rare conditions. (Ilana Panich-Linsman)

Fa­ther starts lab af­ter in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty is­sues stymie rare dis­ease drug de­vel­op­ment

Under bright lab lights, Casey McPherson holds his 6-year-old daughter, Rose. His free hand directs Rose’s gaze toward a computer screen with potential clues in treating her one-of-a kind genetic condition.

Gray specks on the screen show her cells that scientists reprogrammed with the goal of zeroing in on a custom medicine. McPherson co-founded the lab, Everlum Bio, to spark a treatment for Rose — and others like her. A regarded singer-songwriter, McPherson never imagined going into drug development.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 150,500+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Fireside chat between Hal Barron and John Carroll, UKBIO19

It’s time we talked about bio­phar­ma — live in Lon­don next week

Zoom can only go so far. And I think at this stage, we’ve all tested the limits of staying in touch — virtually. So I’m particularly happy now that we’ve revved up the travel machine to point myself to London for the first time in several years.

Whatever events we have lined up, we’ve always built in plenty of opportunities for all of us to get together and talk. For London, live, I plan to be right out front, meeting with and chatting with the small crowd of biopharma people we are hosting on October 12 at Silicon Valley Bank’s London headquarters. And there’s a lengthy mixer at the end I’m most looking forward to, with several networking openings between sessions.

Take­da to pull key hy­poparathy­roidism drug from the mar­ket af­ter years of man­u­fac­tur­ing woes

Takeda on Tuesday morning made an announcement that almost 3,000 people with the rare disease known as hypoparathyroidism were fearing.

Due to unresolved supply issues and manufacturing woes, Takeda said it will cut its losses and discontinue its hypoparathyroidism drug, known as Natpara (parathyroid hormone), halting all manufacturing of the drug by the end of 2024, but the entire inventory will be available until depleted or expired, a company spokesperson said via email.

Pfizer and BioNTech's original Marvel comic book links evolving Covid vaccine science to Avengers' evolving villain-fighting tools.(Source: Pfizer LinkedIn post)

Pfiz­er, BioN­Tech part­ner with Mar­vel for Avengers and Covid-fight­ing com­ic book

Pfizer and BioNTech are collaborating with Marvel to celebrate “everyday” people getting Covid-19 vaccines in a custom comic book.

In the “Everyday Heroes” digital comic book, an evolving Ultron, one of the Avengers’ leading villains, is defeated by Captain America, Ironman and others. The plotline and history of Ultron is explained by a grandfather who is waiting with his family at a clinic for Covid-19 vaccinations.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 150,500+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

FDA+ roundup: Ad­comm date set for Cy­to­ki­net­ics heart drug; New gener­ic drug guid­ance to re­duce fa­cil­i­ty de­lays

The FDA on Wednesday set Dec. 13 as the day that its Cardiovascular and Renal Drugs Advisory Committee will review Cytokinetics’ potential heart drug, meaning regulators aren’t likely to meet the Nov. 30 PDUFA date that was previously set.

The drug, known as omecamtiv mecarbil, read out its first Phase III in November 2020, hitting the primary endpoint of reducing the odds of hospitalization or other urgent care for heart failure by 8%. But it also missed a key secondary endpoint analysts had pegged as the key to breaking into the market, failing to significantly differ in reducing cardiovascular death from placebo.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 150,500+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Af­ter Covid set­back, Val­ne­va lines up $100M for Pfiz­er-al­lied Ly­me dis­ease PhI­II

Valneva has secured €102.9 million (around $99.9 million USD) in a share offering to push forward its Pfizer-partnered Lyme disease vaccine and a jab for chikungunya that awaits an FDA decision.

The French vaccine maker largely snagged the near $100 million from Deep Track Capital and local state-owned Bpifrance, the company said Tuesday night. The capital injection is nearly equal to the amount Pfizer paid to nab equity in the company earlier this summer as part of the duo’s vaccine tie-up.

Valitor CEO Steven Lo (L) and president and CSO Wesley Jackson

A dozen years in the mak­ing, a UC Berke­ley spin­out nabs funds to take on the eye

Largely funded by government grants for the better part of its first decade, a UC Berkeley spinout has secured a new CEO and the funds to take its research into the clinic in early 2024.

The biotech, named by one of the co-founder’s daughters and originally scrapped together with NIH funds in the aftermath of the 2008-09 financial crisis, is also on a mission to upend the treatment of wet age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, with an injectable drug that it claims could be more durable than the “800-pound gorilla” in the room, Genentech’s Lucentis and Regeneron/Bayer’s Eylea.

Endpoints News

Keep reading Endpoints with a free subscription

Unlock this story instantly and join 150,500+ biopharma pros reading Endpoints daily — and it's free.

Car­olyn Bertozzi (Illustration: Assistant editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News)

Car­olyn Bertozzi, re­peat biotech founder and launch­er of a field, shares in chem­istry No­bel win

Carolyn Bertozzi, predicted by some to become a Nobel laureate, clinched one of the world’s top awards in the wee hours of Wednesday, winning the Nobel Prize in Chemistry alongside a repeat winner and a Copenhagen researcher.

The Stanford professor, Morten Meldal of University of Copenhagen and 2001-awardee K. Barry Sharpless of Scripps shared the prize equally. The Nobel is sometimes split in quarters and/or halves.