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

Genentech has signed a multiyear contract to pan the diverse bacteria living in the digestive tract for biomarker signatures of drug response, new live bacterial therapeutics and novel targets for inflammatory bowel disease.

The potentially $534 million deal with Cambridge, U.K.-based Microbiotica will employ its gut bacteria metagenomics platform to test samples from Genentech’s clinical trials in IBD.

Last month, Genentech paired up with Lodo Therapeutics to search for new medicines derived from the microbial DNA found in soil. Lodo’s work focuses on discovering novel DNA and natural molecular scaffolds that have been too difficult to manufacture synthetically.

With up to $969 million promised in milestone payments to Lodo, plus an undisclosed upfront offer and royalties, the two recent deals represent large investments in prospecting bacteria for new assets for Genentech’s portfolio.

RELATED: Genentech forms $1B discovery collaboration with Lodo Therapeutics

The new collaboration with Microbiotica represents Genentech's first targeting the human microbiome of the gut, a Genentech spokesperson told FierceBiotech. The project will focus on analyzing patient samples from clinical development trials of etrolizumab and IL22-Fc in ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.

Spun out from the Wellcome Sanger Institute in 2016, Microbiotica scans for human microbiome signatures linked to phenotypes using an industrial sequencing pipeline and has built a collection of cultures that can evaluate bacteria strains in humanized mouse models.

Genentech will have an option to license assets from the new research collaboration in return for an undisclosed upfront payment, plus milestones and royalties. Meanwhile, Microbiotica will be able to expand its reference genome database and culture collection.

“We believe the microbiome represents a new paradigm in biomedicine, both for understanding drug response and as a novel therapeutic modality,” said James Sabry, M.D., Ph.D., senior VP and global head of Genentech Partnering.

“We have chosen to collaborate with Microbiotica because of its high-quality science and look forward to working together to potentially bring new medicines to people suffering from IBD,” Sabry said in a statement.

Note: This story was updated with additional details from a Genentech spokesperson.