Microbiome biotech joins Peter Thiel’s Breakout Labs project

The seed-stage fund Breakout Labs has added a new biotech, the skin disorder-focused Azitra, to its growing ranks of “hard science” companies.

The Farmington, CT-based biotech is treating skin conditions with what it calls “supercharged probiotics,” by using the skin’s own microbiome to create relatively cheap and sustainable treatments for skin diseases ranging from eczema to staph infections.

The company’s candidate, AZT-01, is a recombinant strain of a safe skin bacterium that secretes therapeutic proteins.

“The microbiome is an explosive field, and we’re using cutting-edge genetic tools to enhance natural and safe bacteria as a platform for novel therapeutics,” said Travis Whitfill, co-founder and CSO of Azitra. “We are very excited to join the Breakout Labs community--its support will propel us forward with our proof-of-concept preclinical studies in eczema. Many patients with skin disease are suffering from symptoms that are not fully addressed with current treatment options, and we hope to provide effective therapeutics that treat the root cause of eczema and eventually other skin diseases with our platform.”

The biotech hopes to have more luck in the microbiome field than Seres Therapeutics ($MCRB), which suffered a major setback to its microbiome R&D ambitions last summer when, in a Phase II trial, its oral microbiome SER-109 failed to outperform a placebo in terms of cutting the risk of Clostridium difficile infection.

Breakout Labs is run by investment guru Peter Thiel--who made a mint from Facebook and PayPal--via his Thiel Foundation. He also runs a venture arm, Founders Fund, which has invested in Cambrian Genomics, Emerald Therapeutics, and the antibody play Stemcentrx.