Pharma

The magic’s in the microbiome for VentureLabs’ new biotech startup Seres Health

The human body is full of trillions of microorganisms that keep us functioning and healthy. But when the normal ecosystems in which these microorganisms live are disturbed, they can become harmful. A new startup out of VentureLabs, the arm of Flagship Ventures that invents and launches new companies, is turning to imbalances in the body’s […]

The human body is full of trillions of microorganisms that keep us functioning and healthy. But when the normal ecosystems in which these microorganisms live are disturbed, they can become harmful.

A new startup out of VentureLabs, the arm of Flagship Ventures that invents and launches new companies, is turning to imbalances in the body’s microbial environment to treat infectious, metabolic and inflammatory diseases.

The microbiome varies from person to person, but Seres Health was founded on the belief that the “functional ecologies” of the microbiome are the same across states of human health and disease. The goal of the company’s so-called Ecobiotic therapeutics will be to shift the microbiome back into a state of health.

To start with, it’s advancing a drug candidate that takes aim at Clostridium difficile, an increasingly common hospital-acquired infection that causes diarrhea. Specifically, it’s targeting cases of C. difficile that are resistant to the antibiotic vancomycin. Flagship says the lead candidate, SER-109, has advanced to clinical trials, although it’s not yet listed on clinicaltrial.gov.

CEO and Flagship Ventures partner David Berry told XConomy that the concept is similar to using a pill to achieve the same results as a fecal transplant —  to restore the balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in the gut, rather than wiping out all kinds of bacteria with an antibiotic.

Seres has been researching, discovering and developing drugs under the radar for about two years now, during which it’s raised about $10.5 million in Series A venture financing from Flagship Ventures, Enso Ventures and others.

It’s not the first company founded on the connection between the microbiome and disease. Second Genome, for one, is using the microbiome to search for potential drug targets to treat disease. A company called uBiome is taking a 23andMe-type approach to an at-home test kit for consumers to learn about their microbiome.

Seres is based in Cambridge, where Flagship is. Dr. Roger J. Pomerantz, an alum of the infectious disease arms of Merck and Johnson & Johnson, is chairman of the board of directors.