Vedanta Biosciences has raised $50 million to move multiple microbiome modulators into the clinic. The financing round, which attracted a clutch of big-name biotech backers, marks another milestone in the company’s attempts to move the microbiome sector well beyond fecal transplants and into a more rational, controllable era.
This narrative--and the tech and team behind it--has prompted Rock Springs Capital, Invesco Asset Management and Seventure Partners’ Novartis ($NVS)-backed microbiome fund to write checks to Vedanta. The financiers joined with PureTech Health, which founded Vedanta 6 years ago, to funnel the $50 million into the firm. In doing so, Vedanta has gained the financial fuel it needs to embark on the next stage of its evolution.
As Vedanta sees it, its internal evolution is driving the advance of the microbiome sector, a field that, to date, has been defined by the financial and R&D successes of Seres Therapeutics ($MCRB). Seres showed VCs can make money in the microbiome sector when it wrapped up a $134 million IPO one year ago. And its lead candidate SER-109, an oral prevention of recurrent Clostridium difficile infection, has helped to demonstrate the therapeutic potential of microbiome modulators.
Vedanta, however, sees SER-109 as a stepping stone on the path to the true potential of the sector. “Clinically it’s been very successful and it’s helped bring the field a lot of attention that otherwise wouldn’t have been received, but I’ve always seen it as a first generation approach that over time ought to be replaced by more refined approaches,” CEO Bernat Olle told Xconomy. “We’re trying to make this a more rational, controllable type of approach.”
Cambridge, MA-based Vedanta has worked toward this objective by building up a library of microbial strains that up- and downregulate the body’s immune responses. By creating cocktails of these bugs, the firm thinks it can address a wide range of indications, including those categorized as infectious diseases, inflammation and immuno-oncology. The broad scope is underpinned by a fast-expanding pool of research linking the microbiome to an array of conditions.
Having developed a pipeline of prospects across different disease areas and raised the cash, Vedanta is now equipped to start a multifront advance into the clinic. Another tranche of the money will go toward the expansion of Vedanta’s manufacturing capabilities, while a third slice will support a doubling of its headcount. The growth plans follow shortly after Vedanta moved out of an incubator and into its own 9,000-square-foot digs in Cambridge.
Vedanta is yet to commit to a timeline for the advance of its in-house pipeline. But, with its Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ)-partnered inflammatory bowel disease drug VE-202 due to enter the clinic in the first half of 2017, the day when Vedanta starts to back up its ambition with clinical data is drawing nearer. J&J, which gained access to VE-202 through a $339 million deal, is handling development of the drug.
As Vedanta advances its own assets into bigger, more costly trials, Olle thinks it now has the sort of deep-pocketed investors that will support the escalation of its activities. An IPO is another possibility.