Microbiome start-up will receive up to €454 million in upfront and milestone payments

Gutsy move: Microbiome spin-out seals half-billion-dollar deal with pharma giant

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

iStock / Artsanova
iStock / Artsanova
UK-based Microbiotica will collaborate with Roche-owned biotechnology group Genentech in the hunt for new microbiome-based therapeutics and biomarkers for its inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) pipeline.

The multi-year contract will use artificial intelligence (AI) to hunt for biomarker signatures of drug response, new live bacterial therapeutics and novel targets for inflammatory bowel disease using Microbiotica’s expansive gut microbiome Reference Genome Database and Culture Collection.

The deal is Genentech’s second in the microbiome space in the past month, after the firm previously paired up with Lodo Therapeutics to search for new medicines based on microbial DNA found in soil.

“We believe the microbiome represents a new paradigm in biomedicine, both for understanding drug response and as a novel therapeutic modality,”​ commented James Sabry, M.D., Ph.D., senior vice president and global head of Genentech Partnering.

“We have chosen to collaborate with Microbiotica because of its high-quality science and look forward to working together to potentially bring new medicines to people suffering from IBD.”

Microbiome therapeutics for IBD

UK-based microbiome therapeutics player Microbiotica – a spin-out of the Wellcome Sanger Institute – will receive up to $534 million (€454m) in upfront and milestone payments as part of the collaboration, the company said.

“This collaboration brings together a world-class pipeline of investigational IBD medicines from Genentech with the world-class microbiome capability of Microbiotica,” ​commented Dr Mike Romanos, CEO of Microbiotica.

We are excited by the opportunity to work with Genentech scientists in order to bring precision metagenomics into the clinical arena for the first time, enabling us to develop biomarkers and medicines for the benefit of patients.”

The agreement will see Microbiotica utilise its precision metagenomics microbiome platform to analyse patient samples from clinical trials of Genentech’s investigational IBD medicines – in order to identify microbiome biomarker signatures of drug response, novel IBD drug targets and live bacterial therapeutic products.

The Cambridge-based firm will receive an undisclosed upfront payment, and is eligible for further milestone payments relating to research, development and commercialisation, up to a total of €454 m ($534 m).

Furthermore, Microbiotica is eligible to receive royalties on sales of certain products resulting from the collaboration, while Genentech has an option to license assets that Microbiotica develops as a result of the research collaboration.

“This collaboration reflects Microbiotica’s strategy of utilising its platform for medicines and biomarker discovery while simultaneously expanding platform capabilities. Whilst Genentech will retain rights to proprietary biomarkers, targets and medicines, the collaboration will enable Microbiotica to continue to rapidly expand its already leading Reference Genome Database and Culture Collection, further strengthening its value across all therapeutic areas,”​ commented Romanos.

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