Nestlé Health Science leads $16.5M Enterome round

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Microbiome specialist Enterome Bioscience has raised €14.5 million ($16.5 million) in a Series C financing round as it looks to kick on with human trials for its IBD candidate.

The round was led by existing investors Seventure and Lundbeckfond Ventures, and included new investors--most notable of which was Nestlé Health Science, which is now a paid-up strategic investor. Exact financial terms of the investment were not disclosed.

This builds on the $11.5 million in a Series B round raised back in 2014; the French biotech said it will use the funds to advance the development of its lead drug candidate EB 8018 into first clinical studies this year as a potential treatment for inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD).

EB 8018 is a small-molecule FimH antagonist, originally licensed from Vertex ($VRTX), that specifically targets adherent-invasive Escherichia coli (AIEC) proliferation in the gut--thought to be one of the main causes of inflammatory colitis in IBD sufferers.

AIEC is an opportunistic pathogen able to thrive in the dysbiotic gut microbiome that results as IBD develops, prolonging and exacerbating the symptoms, according to Enterome.

EB 8018 is designed to restore the dysbiotic microbiome to a normal state via a new mechanism of action, whereby the adhesion of AIEC to the gut wall and its proliferation is prevented.

In the diagnostics space, Enterome will also look to pursue its development efforts in IBD and other microbiome-related diseases--either on its own or under partnerships with diagnostic and pharma companies.

Finally, the biotech will also use the funds to advance therapeutic programs in immuno-oncology.

Earlier this year, Japanese drugmaker Takeda signed a drug discovery deal with Enterome in hopes of spotlighting new treatments for gastrointestinal disorders. Under the agreement, Takeda handed its partner an undisclosed upfront payment and promised 3 years of R&D funding, plus milestone cash tied to the progression of drug candidates in the microbiomics sphere.

In 2014, Takeda gained FDA approval for its IBD integrin receptor antagonist Entyvio as a second-line therapy for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease--putting it down the pathway compared to the $13-billion-a-year anti-TNF Humira from AbbVie ($ABBV) and Johnson & Johnson’s ($JNJ) Remicade.

Humira, Remicade and other IBD meds are however coming under threat from biosimilars, meaning there could be a future market for new therapies using new mechanisms of action--although pricing may become a big factor.  

On top of its deal with Takeda, Enterome also has tie-ups with J&J and AbbVie in IBD, as well as the Mayo Clinic and Geisinger hospitals in metabolic disorders, as more groups look to get in on the new microbiome research sector. 

Pierre Belichard, CEO at Enterome, said: “We are pleased that our existing investors have taken the decision to make a further financial commitment to Enterome. We are also delighted that Nestlé Health Science has become a new strategic investor in the company to support our development programs. We anticipate that access to their expertise and broader capabilities will be valuable in helping us achieve our ambitions. With these new funds we anticipate making further significant progress towards our goal of creating new treatments for patients suffering from conditions where the gut microbiome plays a key role.”

Nestlé Health Science has been on a bit of a deal spree in recent years, and in Feb. announced it had stumped up a $42.5 million investment stake in the Cambridge, MA-based Pronutria Biosciences, whose lead candidate focuses on muscle loss.

Previous to this deal, Nestlé also invested in Seres ($MCRB), another Cambridge, MA-based biotech. Back in 2011, the biotech-buying unit of Nestlé snapped up San Diego’s Prometheus Laboratories as part of its move into gastrointestinal diagnostics.

Greg Behar, CEO of Nestlé Health Science, said of its new advisory position with Enterome: “The microbiome is a fast developing and new health frontier. Enterome has recognized expertise in identifying novel microbiome diagnostics. Our strategic investment in Enterome enables us to expand our microbiome portfolio ranging from diagnosis, to therapeutics and nutritional therapies. We are excited to working with them.”

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