Roche, Pfizer lead $42M round for Second Genome’s PoC play in the microbiome


One of the pioneers in microbiome drug research is winding up for a mid-stage clinical drive after nailing a $42.6 million Series B led by the venture arms of Roche ($RHHBY) and Pfizer ($PFE). Co-founded by serial West Coast biotech entrepreneur Corey Goodman, Second Genome is currently pursuing a Phase I program for its lead therapy, SGM-1019, as it explores an inflammatory bowel disease pathway leading to a potential new therapy for ulcerative colitis.

Over the past four years South San Francisco-based Second Genome has been building a microbiome platform that scans the vast ecosystem of the gut in search of disease triggers and the small molecules, peptides and so on that could play a therapeutic role. Along the way, it’s inked early collaborations with Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) exploring largely undisclosed discovery efforts. 

Like a number of small and growing biotechs, Second Genome turned to Evotec to help scale up its work more rapidly than it might have done on its own. And the new money gives the biotech a chance to grow to about 40 staffers--from the current 25--over the next 12 months.

The biotech has now raised $59 million.

The round also included new investors Digitalis Ventures, Adveq, LifeForce Capital and MBL Venture Capital, as well as Series A investors Advanced Technology Ventures, Morgenthaler Ventures, Seraph Group and individual investor Matthew Winkler. It’s the kind of syndicate the CEO says can go the distance in company buildout.

“I think that in a space like the microbiome it’s never as straight and predictable as it looks when you’re going in,” says CEO Peter DiLaura. But the last three years in particular have shed a strong light on the prospective drugs that can be developed both in-house and with Big Pharma partners; potential highlighted by the role of its two lead investors in this round.

There are some things DiLaura isn’t letting on about for the moment. More programs will be added to the pipeline, but there’s no set timeline for that. And the CEO plans to remain opportunistic to the changing landscape biotech represents right now, with IPOs on chill for now. 

Elaine Jones, executive director of Pfizer Venture Investments, and Carole Nuechterlein, head of Roche Venture Fund, are joining the Second Genome board of directors.

A number of microbiome startups are populating the biotech field these days. France’s Enterome has been making progress while Cambridge, MA-based Seres Health attracted investors to a 2015 IPO that raised $134 million. Seres’ lead drug targets Clostridium difficile infections by altering patients’ bacterial makeup.