Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute Spins Out New Company Microbiotica

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December 19, 2016
By Mark Terry, BioSpace.com Breaking News Staff

IP Group plc (IPO), with Cambridge Innovation Capital plc, is spinning out a new company from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute to focus on the human microbiome. The new company will be called Microbiotica. The new company will establish laboratories within the Wellcome Genome Campus at Hinxton, Cambridge (UK).

IP Group and Cambridge Innovation Capital each ponied up 4 million pounds for a total initial funding of 8 million pounds. The technology component of the company will be directed by Trevor Lawley, of The Sanger Institute, as chief scientific officer. Mike Romanos will be the chief executive officer. Romanos previously held senior roles at GlaxoSmithKline and was the chief executive officer of Crescendo Biologics.

The microbiome, the trillions of bacteria that live inside the human intestine, is a new area of scientific study and is believed to play a role in numerous diseases, including cancer, infections, and metabolic, neurological disorders. The Sanger Institute and Lawley oversee one of the largest collections of cultured human gut bacteria linked to genome analysis in the world, as well as humanized models for the development of therapeutics based on live bacteria. The new company will have access to these resources.

“We are delighted to be partnered with both CIC and the Sanger Institute to develop what promises to be an exciting new commercial approach to the microbiome,” said Sam Williams, head of Biotech at IP Group, in a statement. “By exploring the fundamentals of gut flora distribution and genetics, Microbiotica has an opportunity to take a lead in understanding how the microbiome can be used to not only develop new therapeutics for a range of diseases, but also how to stratify patients according to their microbial profle, identify links with disease and exploit its full potential or human healthcare. This investment reflects IP Group’s approach to new company formation in the biotech sector, backing only the science which promises to bring about revolutionary approaches to human medicine and the teams that can deliver them.”

Earlier this month, researchers at the California Institute of Technology identified a functional link between intestinal bacteria and Parkinson’s disease (PD). They demonstrated that changes in the gut bacterial populations actively affected the deterioration of motor skills seen in PD.

“Our findings provide a completely new paradigm for how environmental factors may contribute to PD and possibly other neurodegenerative disorders,” Sarkis Mazmanian, a professor of microbiology in the division of biology and biological engineering at Caltech and scientific founder of Axial Biotherapeutics, said in a statement. “The notion that these diseases may be impacted by pathology in the gut and not only in the brain is a radical departure from conventional research in neuroscience.”

And researchers at Ohio State University recently described the affect the gut microbiome has on spinal cord injury, and how, potentially, probiotics could assist in recovery.

Of the new company, Lawley said in a statement, “Our work at the Sanger Institute has shown that the human microbiome is important for health and disease, and it itself a therapeutic target. I am delighted that the establishment of Microbiotica will allow us to harness the therapeutic potential of the complex microbial community in the body to create novel treatments and help improve human health.”