Sequoia helps fuel Whole Biome's planned launch for 'medical probiotics' in $35M Series B
Image: Colleen Cutcliffe WHOLE BIOME
The boom in microbiome therapeutics has elevated the “good” gut bacteria from probiotics to drug status, spurring some upstarts backed by prominent venture investors to take their therapies on the highly regulated journey toward an FDA approval. But Whole Biome wants to go a separate direction by occupying the middle ground with what it’s calling “medical probiotics.”
“This is basically a product that has pharmaceutical grade efficacy, clinical efficacy, but it has essentially got the safety of a probiotic,” CEO Colleen Cutcliffe tells me as the company emerges from stealth mode with $35 million in Series B cash.
Cutcliffe, a veteran of Elan Pharmaceuticals, was working at the DNA sequencing company Pacific Biosciences when she met her co-founders, Jim Bullard and John Eid. Combining their biochemistry, biostatistics and physics background, the trio built a platform that compares deep sequencing data from different populations, arriving at metabolic maps that suggest exactly which microbes are missing in patients with certain diseases.
Sequoia Capital was an early supporter of the 6-year-old venture, chipping into the current round with True Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Mayo Foundation, AME Cloud Ventures and others. Roelof Botha is joining the board.
Whole Biome plans to commercialize its first off-the-shelf product, for type 2 diabetes, early next year. Data from several recent — though unpublished — placebo-controlled clinical trials show that their treatment achieved reduction in A1C and glucose spikes on top of the standard metformin regimen, Cutcliffe says.
The theory is that people with type 2 diabetes lack the microbes that are entirely responsible for metabolizing fiber, which then triggers GLP1 response for regulating glucose and insulin. WBF-011, which Whole Biome intends to market as a medical food, is designed to put exactly those microbes back.
With 40 staffers and its own manufacturing operations at its San Francisco base, the company is also exploring other products for irritable bowel syndrome and a third, undisclosed indication.