Takeda doubles down on Finch's microbiome insights, signing up for a second project in Crohn's disease
Takeda first shone a spotlight on Finch Therapeutics’ human-first discovery platform in 2017, when the Japanese pharma paid $10 million to partner a preclinical ulcerative colitis program inspired by fecal transplantation. While the microbiome therapy, FIN-524, is still making its way to the clinic, Takeda has seen enough to commit to a second program tackling another type of inflammatory bowel disease.
The duo will now rev up Finch’s platform tech again in search of a treatment for Crohn’s disease, which Takeda will have exclusive rights to commercialize. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Deploying machine learning to crawl through data from interventional microbiota transplantation studies, Finch CEO Mark Smith aims to identify meaningful microbial signatures portending disease. The result is what he calls rationally-selected microbiota therapies, which contain cultured bacterial strains linked to positive clinical outcomes.
That approach could prove superior to animal models, Finch theorizes. FIN-524 was their first attempt to validate the theory — as the two other candidates in their pipeline, for recurrent C. diff and autism, came from its other discovery platform. Known as full-spectrum microbiota, it represents the foundational “drugs from bugs” idea of putting good bacteria in a pill.
“We’ve seen the promise of Finch’s Human-First Discovery platform for the development of a completely new type of treatment for inflammatory bowel disease,” said Gareth Hicks, head of gastroenterology drug discovery unit at Takeda, in a statement.
Hicks is in charge of one of four core therapeutic areas that Takeda is zeroing in on in the wake of the Shire acquisition (the other three being oncology, neuroscience and rare diseases). Right now, one of the stars in the portfolio is Entyvio, an IBD drug that blocks the binding of α₄β₇ integrin to intestinal mucosal addressin cell adhesion molecule 1 (MAdCAM-1), thereby ameliorating the inflammatory effect of white blood cells on gut tissues.
The collaboration with Finch isn’t their only push into the nascent but fecund field of microbiome-based therapeutics. Last October Takeda put down $50 million to team up with France’s Enterome on EB8018, a small molecule designed to selectively disarm virulent bacteria in the gut causing inflammation, without disrupting the local microbiome.