Thiel’s Breakout Labs fuels four new life science companies

The funding will go into big data in biotech; microbiome science; "programmable" tattoos; and combating bacterial resistance.

Peter Thiel’s Breakout Labs continues apace as the nonprofit seed-stage fund has injected more cash into a host of biotechs, labs and startups.

Financial details have not been released, but the funding will go into big data in biotech; microbiome science; "programmable" tattoos; and combating bacterial resistance. 

One of these companies, SciBac, is targeting antibiotic-resistant diseases by fortifying the microbiome in the gut, lungs, and skin. It was incorporated back in 2015. The California-based biotech’s first product, known as DiffiKil, is designed to treat and prevent Clostridium difficile infection, which is the greatest antibiotic-resistant threat in the U.S.

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DiffiKil prevents infection by maintaining a patient’s healthy gut bacteria and preventing C. difficile from colonizing the gut during a course of antibiotics. Itis designed to stop an existing infection by killing C. difficile, ending its colonization of the colon, and neutralizing its toxins. It also prevents C. difficile from creating spores, which should reduce the risk of recurrence and the spread of the disease.

It’s also looking to treat and prevent chronic Pseudomonas infections in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients. This works as a single-strain inhaled biotherapeutic that treats Pseudomonas aeruginosa and breaks down mucus in cystic fibrosis patients.

Consisting of a live Lactobacillus hybrid, it is designed specifically to kill Pseudomonas and reduce the viscosity and volume of mucus. It also down-regulates the inflammatory immune response created by the Pseudomonas pathogen and reduces scarring in the lungs.

Jeanette Mucha, CEO of SciBac, said: “When different microbes meet under severe stress in nature, they will sometimes exchange genetic traits allowing each to benefit and thrive. Our platform technology harnesses this rare, natural gene transfer in the lab in a controlled and directed manner, opening the door to rapid strain development in biotechnology.”

“The Breakout Labs grant will allow us to further advance our C. diff program, developing a live biotherapeutic that can destroy the harmful C. diff pathogen without antibiotics, while nurturing a healthy gut microbiome.”

Microbiome science is gaining more traction with the funding group, and late last year it also added Farmington, Connecticut-based biotech Azitra to its growing ranks, with its candidates using the skin’s own microbiome to create relatively cheap and sustainable treatments for skin diseases ranging from eczema to staph infections. At the start of the month, it got off a $2.9 million Series A.

Gel4Med, a regenerative medicine company that is engineering "smart" biomaterials to guide tissue regeneration, also gets new funding. The Boston-based startup was incubated out of The Harvard Innovation Lab, and is working on a flowable tissue scaffolding matrix that promotes safe, infection-free tissue healing without the use of antibiotics.

This tech is designed to help prevent postoperative surgical site infections and complications from the millions of surgeries around the world.

“Methods for preventing and treating wound infections are becoming less effective due to a rapid increase in multidrug-resistant organisms, or MDROs,” said Manav Mehta, CEO of Gel4Med. “Our solution, G4Derm, will one day treat patients suffering from wounds ranging from diabetic foot ulcers to battle-field injuries, by preventing infection and promoting tissue regeneration without the concerns of creating further antibiotic resistance—all while being administered quickly and easily by any healthcare professional.”

These latest funding awards bring the total number of companies backed by Breakout Labs to 34 since the program’s first investments back in 2012.

“The four new companies joining our portfolio are building on major discoveries at the intersections of biology and technology—areas where science is pushing deeper into unchartered territory, but commercialization often fails to keep pace,” said Lindy Fishburne, executive director of Breakout Labs.

To date, its portfolio companies have raised 15 times Breakout Labs’ investment, according to the firm, with eight going on to raise Series A, two closing a Series B, and one being bought up.

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.