Genentech, Novome team up to study seaweed-controlled oral cell therapies in IBD

Are seaweed-controlled oral cell therapies the future of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) therapy? That is the question posed by the latest deal from Genentech, which is teaming up with Novome Biotechnologies to study a novel approach to the indication. 

The deal sees Genentech pay $15 million upfront and commit up to $590 million in milestones for the chance to work with Novome on a multitarget IBD collaboration. Novome will handle research up to the start of IND-enabling studies, with Genentech handling clinical trials and commercialization of any candidates that make it that far. 

Partnering with Novome gives Genentech access to the fruits of a platform that grew out of work at Stanford University, where Justin Sonnenburg, Ph.D., and collaborators showed they could use a molecule found in nori seaweed to control the abundance of a Bacteroides strain in the mouse gut. The work opened the door to the development of oral cell therapies that colonize the gut—limiting the size of the initial dose—which can be dialed up or down by changes to the dosing of the prebiotic. 

South San Francisco-based Novome, which employs several researchers behind the Stanford work, has built on the findings by developing a pipeline of prospects led by a phase 1 treatment for enteric hyperoxaluria, a leading cause of kidney stones. The biotech is applying the platform to irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis and immuno-oncology in earlier-stage projects. 

RELATED: Genentech signs $534M deal with Microbiotica to search gut bacteria for IBD targets, new drugs

Novome engineers its microbes to deliver “novel and validated cargo,” CEO Blake Wise said in a statement, resulting in cells designed to have targeted therapeutic activities. Wise spent 13 years at Genentech, rising to the post of VP of its biooncology unit before leaving to join Achaogen.

Genentech and parent company Roche have a long-standing interest in IBD, having bet big on the dual anti-integrin etrolizum­ab only to see the candidate flame out in phase 3. The development of etrolizum­ab was supported by a microbiome deal with Microbiotica to analyze samples taken from recipients of the medicine.