Finch Therapeutics, Takeda ink new microbiome GI collab

Clostridium difficile bacteria under a scanning electron microscope

Microbiome biotech Finch Therapeutics has signed a pact with perennial U.S. life sciences dealmaker Takeda to jointly work on FIN-524, a microbial cocktail for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Somerville, Massachusetts-based Finch Therapeutics is working on FIN-524, a live biotherapeutic in a preclinical stage that is composed of cultured bacterial strains which, the biotech says, have been linked to “favorable clinical outcomes” in studies of microbiota transplantations in IBD.

Finch will now team up with Takeda and tap into its experience in developing and selling gastrointestinal disease meds (one of its core areas), while the Osaka-based pharma gets to help advance a new class of microbial therapy.

On the money side, Takeda will stump up $10 million to Finch, in which it gains exclusive worldwide rights to develop and sell on FIN-524, as well as rights to follow-on products in IBD.

Finch, meanwhile, is in-line for biobucks if development and sales go well, although no figures were given. The pair said this pact could also be extended into “additional, related indications” on similar terms.

“Takeda’s deep GI expertise and recent success in bringing therapies to IBD patients complements our own expertise in microbiome engineering,” said Mark Smith, Ph.D., CEO of Finch.

“Our human-first discovery platform uses data from successful clinical experiences with fecal transplants to design novel microbiome therapeutics for IBD and other diseases. Working with Takeda, we’re well positioned to bring a potentially transformative and scalable new therapy to patients.”

Finch Therapeutics describes itself as a “microbiome engineering company” and was founded by data scientists, clinicians, and microbiologists from MIT and public stool bank OpenBiome. The biotech uses machine learning algorithms created by molecular data to reverse engineer successful experiences with fecal transplantation.

Last year, the biotech raised $5.6 million in Series A financing, with the round led by Flight Partners Management, an investment company controlled by Jeff Smisek, former United Airlines CEO, and was joined by the Anna Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation, the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, and Neil and Anna Rasmussen.

The company is also working on phase 2 ready FIN-403, an oral microbial candidate in recurrent C. difficile infections, with OpenBiome. The biotech also has a licensing deal with U.K.-based Intract Pharma for Phloral, its dual-acting, targeted release tech.

It will hope to have better luck than the pioneering microbiome biotech Seres, which last year saw its treatment for recurrent Clostridium difficile infection miss its primary endpoint. 

For its part, Takeda has been making the most of its rumored $15 billion M&A fund, which last year was said to be targeting U.S. biotech buys.

This year alone has seen the Japanese company spend $5.2 billion on Ariad, its marketed cancer med Iclusig and as well as its fledgling lung cancer med brigatinib, while also paying $125 million for a deal with biotech Maverick that centers on a T-cell research deal, and also comes with a 5-year buyout clause.

That came after Takeda, in a similar deal structure, said it would pay $35 million for tiny, early-stage PvP Biologics in a GI pact, with an acquisition also here on the cards.

Takeda and VC Lightstone also recently came together to launch Cerevance, a new company focused on neuroscience R&D for neurological and psychiatric disorders that will get the help of U.K. scientists (a country it had looked to largely exit from) and be headed up by biotech vet Brad Margus.

In July of last year, it also struck a potential $400 million biobucks research deal with Belgium’s TiGenix, coming a few days after signed a deal with single-asset biotech Alto to work on its early-stage study for ATC-1906, which is being tested for certain aspects of gastroparesis, and also holds an option to buy out the tiny Californian biotech at the end of phase 1 testing.

But Takeda has also been making some big changes in its R&D units, and last year announced a major shakeup of its clinical and drug development as it began to move hundreds of its staff over to PRA Health, with the CRO set to take control over much of its operations in the U.S. and Europe.

This all comes during a major shift in its R&D philosophy, which has seen it drop some programs and buy more deeply into others as it wants to run first-in-class GI, oncology, vaccines and CNS projects.