Microbiome merger flies Finch into phase 2 trial

C. diff
Clostridium difficile bacteria under a scanning electron microscope.

Finch Therapeutics has merged with fellow microbiome player Crestovo. The combined company, which will take Finch’s name, starts life with Crestovo’s mid-phase Clostridium difficile candidate, a large-scale stool donation program and aspirations to build a pipeline of microbiome therapies.

Crestovo has the more advanced pipeline of the two companies. The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech moved its lead candidate, CP101, into a phase 2, 240-patient C. difficile trial earlier this year on the back of data from a smaller open-label study. Yet, it will be Finch’s name above the door of the combined company and its CEO running the show.

Finch’s clout in the relationship derives from its links to nonprofit public stool bank OpenBiome. The biotech broke cover earlier this year by revealing it had licensed OpenBiome’s manufacturing quality system, taken C. difficile program FIN-403 through dose finding and raised $5.6 million. 

FIN-403 was due to enter phase 2 this year but has now disappeared from Finch’s website.

That makes CP101 Finch’s pitch for the C. difficile sector and FIN-524 its main contribution to the combined company’s pipeline. FIN-524 is the inflammatory bowel disease candidate Takeda paid $10 million to license from Finch in April. The microbial cocktail was discovered through from Finch’s algorithm-driven approach to understanding what makes fecal transplants work.

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Down the line, that discovery platform could see Finch’s contribution to the combined company’s pipeline grow. In the near term, Finch’s ability to produce 1,000 microbial treatments a month may be its biggest contribution to the business.

“Finch Therapeutics Group is differentiated by our unique commercial-scale manufacturing operations, which through a collaboration with OpenBiome, already delivers microbiome treatments to thousands of patients each year,” COO Joseph Lobacki said in a statement.

Lobacki was interim CEO of Crestovo before the merger. The COO is joined at Finch by Tom Borody, M.D. A Crestovo scientific founder, Borody will serve as an advisor to the merged company. Finch CEO Mark Smith, Ph.D., a co-founder of OpenBiome, will continue to lead the firm. 

The executives' first task is to guide CP101 through the phase 2 in C. difficile patients, the same indication that Seres Therapeutics swung and missed at last year.