Ancilia Biosciences Awarded NSF Grant to Advance Platform Designed to Address Overlooked Obstacle to Success for Microbiome Therapeutics
- National Science Foundation Award Supports Development of Virus-Resistant Biotherapeutics for Microbiome Applications
- Leverages Natural Function of CRISPR to Develop Live Biotherapeutics with Engineered Immunity against Microbiome-Based Viruses
- Serial Biotech Entrepreneur Dale Pfost Joins Ancilia Board of Directors
NEW YORK, Aug. 3, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Ancilia Biosciences today announced it has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to develop virus-resistant live bacterial biotherapeutics (LBPs) for chronic disease applications, in partnership with the Duerkop Laboratory at the University of Colorado School of Medicine on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. The NSF Small Business Technology Transfer Phase I grant will allow the company to further develop its proprietary platform that leverages the natural function of CRISPR to produce a new class of live biotherapeutics with engineered immunity to viral phages. These viral phages, or bacteriophages, comprise approximately half of the gut microbiome. Data suggest that they contribute to disease and potentially limit the efficacy of LBPs.
Ancilia co-founder and chief executive officer Alexandra Sakatos, PhD, commented, "A recent, high-profile clinical failure highlights how companies have fallen short in their efforts to use live bacterial biotherapeutics to translate the microbiome's biological significance into therapeutic success. We founded Ancilia to overcome what our researchers believe is a significant obstacle to this success—the failure to address the presence of phages that infect commensal microbiome bacteria. There is evidence that phages are associated with disease and that they may also compromise the efficacy of LBPs. Our proposed solution is to harness CRISPR's natural protective function to create LBPs with engineered immunity to these viral phages. We are delighted that the NSF sees potential in our technology and is supporting further development of our platform."
The Ancilia platform is being developed as an essential enabling technology that identifies potentially problematic viruses in the gut using a proprietary approach to viral characterization. It then leverages the natural immune function of CRISPR to produce a new class of live biotherapeutics with immunity to these viruses. Ancilia's scientists have demonstrated proof of principle and filed key patents for the technology. The company's founders and advisers include respected scientific leaders across CRISPR and the virome, including CSO Rodolphe Barrangou, PhD, a CRISPR pioneer who is a co-founder of Intellia Therapeutics and a former chairman of Caribou Biosciences.
"A long-term goal of our lab is to understand how phages contribute to host-microbe interactions in the intestine and their overall impact on human health," said Breck Duerkop, PhD, Assistant Professor of Immunology & Microbiology, University of Colorado School of Medicine, and a co-founder of Ancilia. "We welcome the opportunity to work with Ancilia to further elucidate the impact of phages on microbiome-associated diseases and live bacterial biotherapeutics. Ancilia's innovative use of CRISPR to engineer biotherapeutics that are immune to phage predation is a promising approach, and we look forward to contributing to this important work."
Separately, Ancilia announced that Dale R. Pfost, PhD, has joined the company's Board of Directors.
Dr. Sakatos added, "We are thrilled to have Dale Pfost join as a director as we launch our Series A financing. His broad experience as a life sciences entrepreneur, senior executive, and venture investor will be invaluable as we grow Ancilia. Dale has served as CEO of six biotech companies. He has successfully completed dozens of financings, overseen numerous M&A transactions and served as a director at multiple life sciences firms. We are especially pleased that Dale is knowledgeable about the microbiome space and highly supportive of our approach."
Dr. Pfost commented, "I welcome the opportunity to work with Alex and her colleagues at Ancilia as they advance their innovative platform that harnesses the natural function of CRISPR to overcome issues that have limited the impact of potentially ground-breaking microbiome therapies."
Dr. Pfost was Chairman and CEO of drug discovery innovator Lodo Therapeutics, acquired by Zymergen earlier this year. Previously, he was General Partner at venture capital firm Advent Life Sciences and acting CEO of MicroBiome Therapeutics, which he co-founded. Dr. Pfost was founding CEO of Acuity Pharmaceuticals, which merged to form OPKO Health. He was the founding CEO of Oxford GlycoSciences and genomics pioneer Orchid BioSciences. Dr. Pfost started his first company while in graduate school. It was later acquired by SmithKline Beckman and produced the Biomek, still a leading laboratory automation system today. He earned a BS degree from the University of California Santa Barbara and a PhD in physics from Brown University.
Ancilia Biosciences (www.anciliabio.com) is developing virus-resistant live bacterial biotherapeutics (LBPs) to alter the gut microbiome and treat disease. Ancilia was founded to overcome a potential obstacle to the success of LBPs—their failure to address the role of predatory viral phages in causing disease and in limiting the ability of LBPs to engraft in the gut. The company's proprietary platform is being developed as an essential enabling technology that characterizes viral phages and leverages the natural function of CRISPR to produce a new class of live biotherapeutics with engineered immunity to key viral pathogens. Ancilia has demonstrated proof of principle and filed key patents for the technology. The New York City-based company's founders and advisers include key scientific leaders across CRISPR and the virome.
Alexandra Sakatos, PhD
BLL Partners for Ancilia
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SOURCE Ancilia Biosciences