The human microbiome is composed of trillions of microbes that have critical functions affecting both health and disease. They contribute in the development of our immune system, metabolic functions, manufacturing of nutrients and protect against pathogens. Research on the human microbiome is transforming our understanding of a broad range of diseases, and it is now increasingly recognized that they are key factors in autoimmune, metabolic, infectious and many other diseases.
The Boston-based startup Vedanta Biosciences is developing an innovative class of therapies that modulate the human microbiome. Founded by PureTech and a group of world renowned experts in immunology and microbiology, they leverage foundational discoveries in the field of mucosal immunology to generate safe and potent treatments for autoimmune and inflammatory diseases by restoring intestinal homeostasis.
The company’s lead drug candidate, VE-202, is treatment for inflammatory bowel disorders, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. The drug is a mixture of different strains of Clostridia packed into a pill that is ingested to make its way to the gut where the bacteria will colonize the intestine. It is believed that the bacteria alter the composition of gut bacteria, and stimulate the immune system by encouraging the proliferation of regulatory T-cells, thought to be important in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease. The candidate has shown great potential in preclinical studies. In fact, the results were so impressive that Johnson & Johnson paid anundisclosed fee upfront, which potentially could reach $241 million for achieving development and commercial milestones.
The impact of microbiome-derived therapies on human health could be huge, offering pharmaceutical companies strong opportunities for market access and growth. According to a report in MarketsandMarkets, the emerging microbiome market is expected to reach $658 million in size by 2023 from $294 million in 2019, expanding at an annual growth rate of 22.3 percent.
While there are clear challenges, as clinical trials and absence of clear guidelines, the microbiome field has produced some of the most exciting science discoveries the last few years. And although the competition is tough, Vedanta has the potential to be one of the winners of this emerging market by changing the lives of millions living with inflammatory bowel disease.