Bay Area’s uBiome Secures $83 Million as It Moves into Drug Development, Taps ex-Novartis CEO for Its Board

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San Francisco-based uBiome snagged $83 million in a Series C financing round and also tapped industry veteran Joe Jimenez, the former chief executive officer of Swiss pharma giant Novartis, to its board of directors.

The Series C financing will be used shift the company into development for patients with chronic gut conditions such as IBD, IBS, Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis. uBiome is best known for its microbiome sequencing tests and wellness products. The company intends to take a chunk of the Series C funding and leverage the insights it gained from its microbiome database to shift into drug development. The company said it will use pre-existing patent assets and industry research collaborations to support this program.

“This is the next step in the evolution of uBiome. We started with a simple wellness product to help people understand their microbiomes, expanded to clinical laboratory testing in 2015, and are now poised for expansion,” Jessica Richman, co-founder and chief executive officer of uBiome said in a statement. “This financing allows us to expand our product portfolio, increase our focus on patent assets, and further raise our clinical profile, especially as we begin to focus on commercialization of drug discovery and development of our patent assets.”

As uBiome looks to begin drug development programs, the company pointed to its addition of Jimenez to its board of directors. Also, uBiome said it has opened a therapeutics headquarters in Cambridge, Mass. that will support its new drug discovery and development efforts. In its announcement, uBiome did not disclose how many employees were based at the new drug discovery center.

“Joe Jimenez brings an indisputable record of success in pharmaceutical drug discovery and development. He will further advance the success of uBiome’s mission to transform research into useful products based on the microbiome,” Richman said.

Jimenez, who Richman credited with rejuvenating the Novartis pipeline, said the microbiome contains “a wealth of valuable information about our health.” With the world’s largest microbiome database at uBiome, Jimenez said that offers a “tremendous opportunity” to apply the insights gained from that research into the development of new therapeutics.

In addition to shifting into drug development, uBiome, established in 2012, said it will also use a portion of the funds to accelerate and expand commercialization of SmartGut, SmartJane, Explorer and other clinical tests it has under development, including companion diagnostics. Explorer is a consumer product that helps people understand the role that food and lifestyle can play in gut wellness

SmartGut is a stool test that identifies microbes in the gut for patients with chronic gut conditions such as IBD, IBS, Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis. SmartJane is a women’s health test that genotypes all 19 clinically relevant strains of HPV, identifies four common sexually transmitted diseases (chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and mycoplasma genitalium), and surveys more than 20 vaginal microbes associated with bacterial vaginosis and other conditions.

The funding round was supported by 8VC, Y Combinator, Dentsu Ventures, and "additional new and existing investors," uBiome said. 

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