5 biotech startups braving the new world of microbiome therapies

gut bacteria prebioticsIn the same way that great advances in our understanding of the human genome sparked new opportunities for biotech companies in the early 2000s, growing knowledge about how microbes in the human body affect health has paved the way for a small class of biotech startups emerging now.

These companies are looking at ways to restore balance to populations of bacteria in and on the body that, when they become disrupted, may promote disease. Although these relationships are still not completely understood, researchers have been studying potential links between the microbiome and metabolic diseases, inflammation and a host of other conditions.

These companies are among the first to try to translate this research into new therapies:

Drug discovery firm Second Genome, founded in 2010, raised an $11.5 million Series A round this year and secured a deal with Janssen to advance new microbiome-based therapies for ulcerative colitis. In its own pipeline, the company says it’s developing three preclinical microbiome modulators for unspecified diseases.


Founded by PureTech Ventures and a team of immunology and microbiology experts, Vedanta Biosciences is focused on developing microbiome modulators for autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. It’s reportedly running preclinical tests of a first candidate for inflammatory disease. Johnson & Johnson is an investor.

Another startup launched by a venture firm is Seres Health, born out of Flagship Ventures’ VentureLabs. It’s got $10.5 million in stow to develop  what it calls Ecobiotic products focused on shifting the microbiome of disease back to a state of health. Its first candidate takes aim at strains of C. difficile that are resistant to the antibiotic vancomycin.

Previously known as NuMe, Microbiome Therapeutics is running two clinical trials of a microbiome modulator designed to enhance insulin sensitivity in patients with prediabetes, and lessen adverse GI effects in those who are taking the antidiabetic drug metformin.

ViThera Pharmaceuticals’ approach involves engineering bacteria to deliver therapies to the gut. Opened in 2009, its lead program is in preclinical development for inflammatory bowel disease.

What companies are missing from this list?

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