Pfizer's investment fund is making waves in VC — including a $25M bet on IBD player Vedanta Biosciences
Pfizer has a gut feeling about Vedanta Biosciences.
On Tuesday, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based microbiome upstart became the fourth biotech to receive an investment from the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative (PGBI), bagging $25 million to send its inflammatory bowel disease candidate to Phase II.
Since its launch in June, the PGBI has invested $120 million in small- to medium-sized biotechs spanning several key focus areas: internal medicine, inflammation and immunology, oncology, rare disease, vaccines and hospital. So far, Homology Medicines has the largest stake, with $60 million to advance its phenylketonuria (PKU) program.
Inspired by the ability of fecal transplants to reboot the balance of healthy microbes in the gut, Vedanta is working on tailored packages of bacterial strains designed to spur specific therapeutic responses. The company says Pfizer’s investment will fund a Phase II trial for its live biotherapeutic to treat IBD — dubbed VE202 — which is expected to launch this year.
VE202 is produced from pure, clonal bacterial cell banks, bypassing the need for direct sourcing of fecal donor material. Topline Phase I data showed VE202 was generally safe and well-tolerated, and “demonstrated durable and dose-dependent colonization,” Vedanta said.
“We believe Vedanta’s approach to modulating the microbiome may hold promise for people living with IBD, and we are excited for its potential as this important study moves forward,” Michael Vincent, senior VP and CSO of Pfizer’s inflammation and immunology research unit, said in a statement.
Vincent is joining Vedanta’s scientific advisory board, and Pfizer holds rights to first negotiation on VE202. Merck and AbbVie vet Jeffrey Silber is leading Vedanta’s efforts as CMO after joining the company back in September.
Homology and Vedanta aren’t the only two Massachusetts-based biotechs to benefit from the PGBI. Cambridge-headquartered Trillium Therapeutics also snagged a $25 million investment for its CD47 program. ESSA Pharma, located in Vancouver, British Columbia, received a $10 million investment for its work in the prostate cancer space.
“Now, more than ever, our patients need us, working together, to turn great scientific ideas into innovative new medicines,” Pfizer said in a statement in June.