Bristol-Myers, Enterome pen microbiome I/O research pact

Bristol-Myers Squibb has teamed with Enterome to discover microbiome-derived biomarkers, drug targets and bioactive molecules relevant to its immuno-oncology operation. The alliance positions Bristol-Myers to try to harness the potentially modulating effect of the gut microbiome on cancer immunotherapies.

Evidence of the link between microbiota in the gut and patient responses to immunotherapies has built up in the scientific literature over the past few years. Sparked by an observation that germ-free mice respond poorly to cancer therapies, researchers began investigating the link between microbes, inflammation and cancer. A growing body of evidence to support the link has attracted the attention of industry over the past year, leading to the merger of Flagship Ventures’ Evelo Biosciences and Epiva Biosciences and a hook up between Enterome and Gustave Roussy.

Now, Bristol-Myers has turned to Enterome to add microbiome expertise to its immuno-oncology operation. The agreement sees Bristol-Myers pay $15 million (€14 million) upfront and commit to R&D funding, milestones and royalties to gain access to Enterome’s metagenomic platform and any therapies resulting from the collaboration.

Coming on the heels of a separate pact with Johns Hopkins University, the deal marks the second time in a week Bristol-Myers has looked outside its walls for help understanding the effect of the microbiome on responses and resistance to immuno-oncology.

“Business development has been integral in partnering external innovation with our internal R&D expertise and capabilities,” Carl Decicco, head of discovery at Bristol-Myers, said in a statement. “Enterome’s focus on target identification and validation along with their significant experience in microbiome research can help to advance our goal to improve outcomes for patients treated with immunotherapies.”

Enterome has built its business on two metagenomics platform. One characterizes the metagenome linked to a particular disease phenotype. The other screens genomic and metagenomic libraries to discover novel drugs and targets. Enterome has landed deals with AbbVie, Johnson & Johnson and Takeda on the strength of the platforms, while also pulling in close to €30 million from Seventure Partners, Lundbeckfond Ventures and Nestlé Health Science to advance its own pipeline.