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6 June, 2018 - 16:55 By Tony Quested

Sanger spin-out in Cambridge lines up $534m payback

Microbiotica in Cambridge UK is set to receive up to $534 million in upfront and milestone payments from a multi-year deal with Roche Group company Genentech.

Microbiotica is a leading player in microbiome-based therapeutics and spun out of the Wellcome Sanger Institute.

The collaboration with Genentech is designed to discover, develop and commercialise biomarkers, targets and medicines for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

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

Microbiotica will receive an undisclosed upfront payment and is eligible to receive research, development and commercialisation milestone payments up to $534m based on achievement of certain predetermined milestones.

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

Microbiotica was formed 18 months ago with funding from Cambridge Innovation Capital and IP Group to commercialise ground-breaking microbiome science at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, from the laboratory of Dr Trevor Lawley, CSO of Microbiotica.

The Microbiotica platform comprises the world’s leading microbiome Culture Collection and linked Reference Genome Database that enable unprecedented precision of gut bacterial identification at clinical trial scale.

The company is adding to this at a very rapid rate through its industrial culturing and sequencing pipeline, providing the best available representation of clinical trial samples for strain-level identification of bacteria.

The complex datasets that arise from such studies are analysed using AI techniques to discern microbiome signatures linked to phenotype. The availability of the physical Culture Collection enables biological evaluation of bacteria in proprietary translational models including humanised microbiome mouse models.

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

“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.”

Microbiotica is a portfolio company of Cambridge Innovation Capital whose operating partner Dr Robert Tansley said: “From our first meeting with the Microbiotica team we became aware of the tremendous potential in its technology and knowledge base.

“This collaboration with Genentech, a world-leading biotechnology company, in just one of the many areas of application of the microbiome provides an excellent endorsement of Microbiotica’s technology and underlines CIC’s initial and continual rationale for supporting this business.”

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