BiomX nets $32M to engineer bacteria-killing viruses for IBD and acne

green bacteria
BiomX also hopes to target the bacteria that thrive in colorectal tumors, which may promote resistance to cancer therapies. (Gerd Altmann)

BiomX has raised $32 million to continue preclinical development of its customized phage cocktail therapies aimed at eradicating the bacteria behind acne and inflammatory bowel disease.

The Israeli microbiome company’s topical acne treatment is expected to enter clinical trials by the end of the year, with the IBD program following suit in 2020.

Its lead program is active against antibiotic-resistant strains of Propionibacterium acnes, while sparing other bacteria in the skin. And as a virus, the treatment can replicate itself, producing 50 to 100 phages from each bacteria it destroys.

The series B round was funded by BiomX’s previous backers, including OrbiMed, Johnson & Johnson Innovation and Takeda Ventures, as well as 8VC, MiraeAsset, Seventure Partners and the SBI Japan-Israel Innovation Fund. They were joined by new investors RM Global Partners, Chong Kun Dang Pharmaceutical, Handok, KB Investment, and Consensus Business Group.

A transmission electron micrograph
of phages attached to a bacterial cell​​.
(Graham Beards/Wikimedia Commons)

“The new funding will enable us to transition BiomX to a clinical-stage company as our lead programs in acne and IBD, both novel phage therapeutics targeting harmful bacteria in the microbiome, enter the clinic,” said CEO Jonathan Solomon. BiomX, once known as MBcure, previously raised $24 million in a May 2017 series A round.

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“In addition, we will continue to drive our liver disease and colorectal cancer programs forward by identifying key bacteria driving these diseases and developing unique phage cocktails against them,” Solomon said.

BiomX hopes to target the bacteria that have been seen to thrive in colorectal cancer tumors, and which may promote resistance to cancer therapies. The company aims to use synthetic biology approaches to engineer natural phages lethal to the target bacteria, to potentially be given alongside conventional therapeutics.