Takeda has unveiled its second microbiome pact in a week to continue its gastrointestinal deal spree. The latest agreement sees Takeda team up with low-profile microbiome player NuBiyota to develop products to treat gastrointestinal disorders.
Japan’s Takeda is paying an upfront fee and committing to milestones and royalties to work with NuBiyota, but neither company has disclosed the full financial details of the deal. What is known is that Takeda is handing over the cash to access the fruits of NuBiyota’s microbiome platform and test them in gastrointestinal indications.
The platform emerged from the University of Guelph, where Emma Allen-Vercoe, Ph.D., and her colleagues treated Clostridium difficile infections with a cocktail of bacteria they described as a synthetic stool. That project, called RePOOPulate, made headlines in 2013 after a 33-strain, 25-species microbial ecosystem derived from a healthy donor was successfully used to treat two elderly patients with severe recurrent C. difficile infections. NuBiyota was founded that same year.
NuBiyota has kept a low profile since then. Details of a NuBiyota-sponsored 20-person study of MET-1—an acronym of microbial ecosystem therapeutics—in recurrent C. difficile appeared on ClinicalTrials.gov in August, but enrollment has yet to start. How NuBiyota funded its progress to this point is unclear. The LinkedIn page of Lilly Asia Ventures’ Yining Zhao lists him as a co-founder and China CEO of NuBiyota, but the Eli Lilly-backed VC shop’s website doesn’t list the microbiome player in its portfolio. A company called NuBiyota was registered as a business in Hong Kong in December.
The stealthiness of the operation evidently didn’t stop NuBiyota from attracting the attention of one of the most active dealmakers in the microbiome and broader gastrointestinal sectors. Takeda unveiled the hookup with NuBiyota days after it revealed it paid $10 million to secure the rights to Finch Therapeutics’ microbial inflammatory bowel disease asset.
Takeda signaled its interest in the microbiome at the start of last year when it formed an alliance with Enterome. That collaboration is focused on gastrointestinal disorders, as are many of the other nonmicrobiome deals struck by Takeda in recent years. Examples from the past 12 months include the licensing of a 5-HT4 agonist from Theravance Biopharma and a partnership with Altos Therapeutics to develop an oral dopamine D2/D3 receptor antagonist. The agreement with NuBiyota further expands Takeda’s gastrointestinal R&D network.
“This collaboration reinforces Takeda’s long-term commitment to unmet medical need in gastroenterology and adds to our other microbiome-related partnerships,” Asit Parikh, M.D., Ph.D., head of Takeda’s gastroenterology unit, said in a statement. “Through these partnerships, we are exploring both microbial consortia and microbiome derived bioactives to investigate how the microbiome can be harnessed for treatment of GI diseases.”
Takeda has maintained its interest in the microbiome through some early blows to the sector, notably the failure of Seres Therapeutics’ SER-109 in a phase 2 C. difficile trial. The Japanese company is looking to use microbial therapeutics in a different way to Seres' pioneering project, though. Takeda’s programs are aiming at treating gastrointestinal disorders such as ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome, not infections such as C. difficile.