Robust Microbiome Therapeutic Pipeline Attacking Infectious Diseases

11 Jun

By Shaoyu Chang, MD, MPH,  Senior Research Analyst, LSN

Shaoyu 10*10

Our body is home to millions of microorganisms that form a symbiotic, ecological community, known as microbiome. With the development in genomics and microbiology, the crosstalk between microbes and the body has been gradually deciphered. Potential new treatments have emerged, with some coming close to fruition. This week we have decide to take a dive into the Life Science Nation (LSN) Company Platform to get a snapshot of the current landscape in this field.


Figure 1 | Source: LSN Company Platform | Data as of June 11, 2015

While microbiome research is still in its infancy, through the LSN Company Platform we were able to find 40 companies currently working on new technologies in the microbiome field. As shown in Figure 1, the United States is the leading country in terms of number of microbiome-related companies, while Western European countries including France, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Netherlands also have significant activity.

The majority of companies we identified are working on at least one microbiome-based therapy or diagnostic tool. Fecal microbiota transplant (FMT) is arguably the most promising product of microbiome research field. FMT transfers bacterial colonies from healthy individuals to patients with recurring Clostridium difficile-associated disease and has shown consistent efficacy [1]. Other researchers are exploring microbiome-based therapeutics for a wide range of conditions including acne, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases.

The microbiome therapy pipeline is comparatively small but shows promise. We have identified 31 microbiome-related therapeutic assets from the LSN platform as of June 2015 (Figure 2). Over 90% of these assets are in preclinical development through phase 2 clinical trials, with only one in phase 3. No microbiome drug has ever received market approval to date. As one would expect, infectious and parasitic diseases are the leading therapeutic field in terms of number of assets, followed by diseases of the digestive system. Endocrine, nutritional, and metabolic diseases such as diabetes have also become targets for microbiome therapies.

Figure 2 | Source: LSN Company Platform | Data as of June 11, 2015

Developmental challenges exist, such as lack of knowledge of cause-effect relationship and difficulty in defining the right combination of therapeutic microbes. As the scientific community overcomes these barriers and the field matures, we expect the number of microbiome-related assets continue to grow and diversify as the science matures.

Pharmaceutical corporations are constantly on the search for new pathways to crack the disease code. Now a growing number of big pharmaceuticals are embracing microbiome as an emerging source of novel therapeutics [2]. Furthermore, a couple of venture capital funds have been established with a declared mandate invest in microbiome [3]. This, combined with the highly anticipated IPO of the frontrunner in this field [4] demonstrates the growing level of interest and activity in this field. The LSN team will keep you informed as we continue to track trends in microbiome research.

1. Fergus Shanahan, Separating the microbiome from the hyperbolome. Genome Medicine (2015) 7:17.
2. Alex Lash, With Vedanta Deal, J&J Marks Big-Pharma Milestone in the Microbiome. 13 Jan, 2015.
3. Press Release, Next Closing Brings Seventure Partners’ Health for Life Capital Investment Vehicle to €100m. Seventure Partners website. 19 Mar, 2015.
4. John Carroll, Pioneering microbiome upstart Seres Therapeutics targets a $100M IPO. 28 May, 2015.

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