Adapsyn signs $162M microbe-mining deal with Pfizer

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Startup uses big data and AI technology to find drug candidates from microbiota.

Finding drugs amongst the metabolic soup of living organisms is a tough task, but Canadian biotech Adapsyn Bioscience has developed a system that could sift out promising candidates more quickly—catching the eye of a pharma partner.

Pfizer’s venture arm Pfizer R&D Innovate just stumped up a financing round for the Hamilton, Ontario-based star-up along with Genesys Capital, which will fund its internal drug discovery efforts. And the big pharma has also earmarked $162 million for a project that will use Adapsyn’s platform to search through its collection of microbial strains.

The deal, which includes unspecified upfront cash, will apply Adapsyn’s big data-mining and artificial intelligence technology to try to identify previously undiscovered natural products, with both companies having “exclusive rights to pursue select novel compounds and their derivatives identified through the collaboration.”

If Pfizer chooses to take any forward to market, it is in line for pay milestones and royalties—with a reciprocal arrangement if Adapsyn goes down that route.

Nathan Magarvey
Nathan Magarvey Ph.D.

Adapsyn was set up in 2016 to build on work carried out at McMaster University by its founder and chief scientific officer Nathan Magarvey, Ph.D. (pictured right), who is an associate professor at McMaster and has previously held positions at Harvard Medical School and Wyeth Research.

Magarvey’s work focuses on mining microbial genomes for natural product biosynthetic gene clusters that may code for potential novel drug candidates. The possible disease targets in the Pfizer collaboration have not been disclosed.

"Discovering truly novel compounds that exhibit new pharmacological signatures from natural products has historically been a very time- and labor-intensive process," said Edmund Graziani, head of synthetic biology and natural products at Pfizer.

"Adapsyn's technology could potentially help take much of the guess work out of the process, and help reveal novel chemistry and biology from our natural product samples."

Pfizer’s executive director of worldwide business development is joining Adapsyn’s board, along with Genesys Capital co-founder and managing director Kelly Holman.