Flagship Ventures plans to create a new immune-microbiome company that will have a candidate in the clinic next year--through the combination of a pair of its existing portfolio companies. The resulting company has nabbed $40 million thus far and is moving forward with a combined employee staff of 42.
The merger is of Evelo Biosciences and Epiva Biosciences--two companies founded by Flagship’s VentureLabs back in 2014. The resulting company will be known as Evelo Biosciences and will be headed up by president and CEO Simba Gill, who ran the prior iteration of Evelo. Flagship’s Noubar Afeyan is the chairman of the combined company.
“Each company, through its proprietary screening platform, identified bacteria which both up-regulate and down-regulate the immune system in human in vitro systems,” Afeyan told FierceBiotech. “Those same bacteria, in some cases, show efficacy in in vivo systems, and those are potential candidates that we are moving forward into human testing.”
He added: “This is strategic move, enabling the focus of resources to accelerate and broaden the work of both companies to discover and advance novel therapies, build partnerships and deliver treatments to patients.”
Evelo is the first company to work to systematically identify, characterize and understand the biology of cancer-associated bacteria and bacterial immune activators. Its work is expected to offer a better perspective on tumor metabolism and immuno-oncology.
For its part, Epiva was working on treating conditions involving inflammation and aberrant immune responses by modulating the microbiome. It was developing bacterial therapeutics aimed at restoring a more normal microbiome, like that found in healthy people.
“Evelo was focused on the microbiome for immune system activation in oncology, while Epiva was investigating the microbiome to down-regulate the immune system for allergy, autoimmunity and inflammatory diseases,” Afeyan told FierceBiotech. “Working independently for the past few years, both companies came to a similar conclusion: the immune system and the microbiome interact to form a single metasystem, the immuno-microbiome.”
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