Alexandria LaunchLabs Grants First Seed Capital to Holobiome in Cambridge

Money bags being passed from one person to another

Alexandria Real Estate Equities, which focuses on the development of life science and technology campuses, launched its inaugural member class of seed- and early-stage life science companies at the Alexandria LaunchLabs – Cambridge. The first investment was in Holobiome, a member company at LaunchLabs.

Holobiome is working to develop novel microbiome therapeutics for diseases of the central nervous system. Microbiome work looks at the millions and millions of microorganisms that live in the human body and provide signaling and communications and are relevant to various disease states. Holobiome’s particular interest is in what is known as the gut-brain axis.

Microbes in the gut communicate to the central nervous system by way of at least three parallel and interacting channels, including nervous, endocrine, and immune signaling mechanisms. In addition to the more obvious diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome and obesity, the microbiome and the gut-brain axis has been implicated in central nervous system disorders such as depression, Parkinson’s disease, autism and anxiety.

In 2018, Holobiome signed a research collaboration deal with Johnson & Johnson Innovation to work on microbiome therapeutics for sleep disorders and related illnesses. Philip Strandwitz, chief executive officer and co-founder of Holobiome stated, “Recent findings continue to highlight the link between the human microbiome—the trillions of bacteria that live on and in us—and diseases of the central and enteric nervous systems. At Holobiome, we are excited to work with the Johnson & Johnson Consumer team to help bridge these emerging scientific advancements into potential solutions for patients. This second collaboration brings our goals one step closer to reality.”

The amount of the award from Alexandria Launch-Labs was not disclosed, although its founder and executive director, Joel Marcus, indicated to the Boston Business Journal that their investments are usually between $500,000 and a few million dollars.

Although microbiome research is gaining a lot of interest, Strandwitz told the Boston Business Journal that choosing capital funding required tough decisions. “Many of the companies we’ve talked to offered to ‘plug-and-play’ their own management, but that wasn’t of interest to the other founders and me. We want to lead this company.” He added that he and the other co-founders have had to work hard to preserve their stake in the company.

Holobiome plans to use the funds to advance its work into the clinic in 2020.

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Alexandria LaunchLabs-Cambridge provides its member companies with flexible, turnkey office and lab space, mentorship and access to Alexandria’s network. Alexandria’s Seed Capital Platform also provides access to strategic risk capital.

Alexandria notes that “after presenting to Alexandria Seed Capital Platform members, made up of preeminent biopharmaceutical and venture entities, [Holobiome] went on to raise an initial seed round from Alexandria Venture Investments and another early-stage investor.”

Strandwitz stated, “There are numerous challenges when starting a company in the life sciences, but two of the first are finding funding and a home. Fortunately, Alexandria is an unparalleled and best-in-class purveyor of both, and with their LaunchLabs and Seed Capital platforms, they provide a unique ecosystem and highly curated support that entrepreneurs and innovations need to thrive. The Holobiome team is delighted to call LaunchLabs our home, and to have Alexandria as a partner and seed investor.”

Currently, Alexandria has opened its call for applications for two $125,000 Alexandria LaunchLabs Innovation Prizes to recognize excellence in early-stage science, leadership and business strategy. The prize is open to Massachusetts-based life science entrepreneurs. The deadline for the prize is May 31, 2019, with winners being announced in June 2019. Each winner will receive $100,000 to support R&D as well as one year of office-lab space at Alexandria LaunchLabs-Cambridge worth another $25,000.

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