Genentech has entered into two new deals to investigate bacteria as a source of new drugs, targets, biomarkers and live-bacteria therapeutic products. With Cambridge, UK-based Microbiotica, Genentech will pay up to $534 million, including milestones to scan human gut microbiome signatures from patients taking part in clinical trials with etrolizumab and IL22-Fc for ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Microbiotica, which was spun out of the Wellcome Sanger Institute in 2016, uses a platform that combines a microbiome Culture Collection with a Reference Genome Database that allows bacterial identification in patient samples. The resulting datasets are analyzed by AI techniques to identify microbiome patterns linked to phenotype. The pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disorders is linked to disruptions in the gut microbiome, but the majority of these microbes have yet to be studied. The partners will also use Microbiotica's physical Culture Collection to evaluate bacteria in translational models, including humanized microbiome mouse models. “We believe the microbiome represents a new paradigm in biomedicine, both for understanding drug response and as a novel therapeutic modality,” said Genentech in a statement. The second Genentech deal is with Lodo Therapeutics, which will receive up to $969 million, including milestone payments to search for new drugs derived from the rich sources of microbial DNA in soil (targets and diseases were not disclosed). Lodo, which was launched out of Rockefeller University in 2016, collects soil samples from across the US, from which microbial DNA is extracted. The DNA is then cloned into easily cultured bacterial hosts, allowing for the construction of large DNA libraries that are a potential source of natural products. For example, Lodo researchers identified a new family of antibiotics that killed bacteria resistant to vancomycin and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (Nat. Microbiol. 3, 415–422, 2018).
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Genentech prospects gut and soil. Nat Biotechnol 36, 674 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/nbt0818-674