J&J invests in Caelus, pens pacts to grow microbiome R&D

Johnson & Johnson
J&J struck the deals through the microbiome unit it created in 2015

Johnson & Johnson has unveiled a clutch of deals intended to grow its presence in the microbiome sector. The agreements will give J&J a stake in microbiota drug development shop Caelus Health—and links to DayTwo and the Weizmann Institute of Science to bolster its own activities.

J&J entered into the deals through its Janssen Human Microbiome Institute (JHMI), a group the Big Pharma set up in 2015 to advance research and its presence in the field. JHMI has since formed pacts with companies including JLABS’ member Xycrobe Therapeutics. And it has now added deals with a pair of Israeli organizations— DayTwo and the Weizmann Institute of Science—and an investment in Caelus to its activities.

“DayTwo’s advanced prediction engine algorithm, the Weizmann Institute of Science’s robust research capabilities and Caelus’s portfolio of microbiota-based products provide unique opportunities to learn more about the role that the microbiome plays in disease and health,” Anuk Das, head of scientific innovation, Janssen Human Microbiome Institute, said in a statement.

Caelus disclosed J&J’s involvement in its €2.5 million ($2.7 million) Series A last week. The Amsterdam, Netherlands-based startup plans to use the cash to advance its pipeline, the lead candidate in which is a phase 1 oral formulation designed to lower insulin resistance and prevent development of Type 2 diabetes. Caelus is also joining the JLINX startup support community J&J is running out of Beerse, Belgium.

The focus of Caelus’ work overlaps with projects J&J is planning to run in collaboration with DayTwo and the Weizmann Institute. DayTwo and the Weizmann Institute bring a microbiome platform designed to deliver nutritional recommendations to control glucose response to the collaboration. J&J envisions these recommendations helping healthcare systems to intercept the development of diabetes and metabolic syndrome-associated disorders.

JHMI has also penned a separate agreement with the Weizmann Institute. This collaboration gives JHMI access to research and analytics capabilities. By pairing these capabilities to its own resources, JHMI plans to mine datasets in search of microbiome-based therapies.