Backed by Google, Evelo Bags $50 Million and Names Some Industry Vets to the Team

Backed by Google, Evelo Bags $50 Million and Names Some Industry Vets to the Team July 11, 2017
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Microbiome company Evelo BioSciences, one year after merging with Flagship Ventures startup Epiva Biosciences, has snagged an additional $50 million in Series B financing.

The new financing round was led by luminaries such as Google Ventures (the venture capital arm of Alphabet, now known as GV), Celgene , Mayo Clinic and Alexandria Venture Investments.

The Mayo Clinic and Evelo already have a research relationship. In August 2016, the two groups entered into a collaboration to advance immuno-microbiome-based therapies for cancer.

Proceeds from the new financing round will be used to advance multiple monoclonal microbial product candidates into clinical studies in oncology and immuno-inflammatory diseases over the next year. The company said it also intends to use the funds to expand its product platform.

Before merging into the new Evelo entity, Evelo Therapeutics and Epiva were both working on developing complementary therapeutics in the microbiome. Evelo had been working on developing therapies for cancer, while Epiva had been focused on the development of therapies for allergies, inflammatory and autoimmune disorders. After combining forces, Evelo is focused on development of orally delivered monoclonal microbials to target the gut microbiome. By selecting naturally occurring monoclonal microbials with defined biological effects, Evelo can improve the speed, cost and success of drug discovery and development. Evelo's platform enables pharmacological intervention at all stages of disease with naturally occurring, safe and effective monoclonal microbials, the company said.

It’s that possibility of the microbials that has drawn the investors. Noubar Afeyan, chairman of Evelo’s board of directors and chief executive officer of Flagship Pioneering (formerly Flagship Ventures), said Evelo’s discoveries “on the interactions between the microbiome and the immune system” are being translated into a powerful new platform for treatments. That translates into new possibilities for helping patients and enables a new modality of medicines, Afeyan said in a statement.

"This growth-stage investment from Flagship and other leaders in innovation and life sciences enables Evelo to advance several monoclonal microbials into clinical trials and to further expand and scale our platform,” Afeyan said.

In addition to the $50 million funding round, Evelo has also tapped several industry leaders for roles on its board of directors as well as the c-suite. Evelo added Andrea Itano, the former head of the Tempero Discovery Performance Unit at GlaxoSmithKline , as its new head of immuno-inflammatory disease research. The company also tapped Humphrey Gardner as its new chief of medical oncology. Before Evelo, Gardner served as senior vice president of clinical development at Karyopharm . Chun Zhang was brought on by Evelo as senior vice president of process development and manufacturing. Prior to Evelo, Zhang was head of bioprocess development at Shire where he led development of upstream/downstream manufacturing processes and external clinical drug substance production.

For its board of directors, Evelo tapped David Epstein, chairman of Rubius Therapeutics and recent past-CEO of Novartis Pharmaceuticals , a division of Novartis AG . Theo Melas-Kyriazi, chief financial officer of Levitronix Technologies LLC was also named to the board. Stelios Papadopoulos, the chairman of the board of directors of Biogen , Exelixis , and Regulus Therapeutics , was brought on as a special adviser to the board.

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