4D pharma buys Tucana to add diagnostic capabilities to microbiome R&D toolkit

4D pharma (LON:DDDD) has struck a deal to buy Tucana Health. The takeover, which is costing £3.1 million ($4.5 million) upfront with more tied to milestones, is intended to boost 4D pharma's ability to identify patients who may benefit from live biotherapeutics, starting with a treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

4D pharma CEO Duncan Peyton

Tucana, a spinout from University College Cork in Ireland, attracted the bid from 4D pharma on the strength of its research into microbiome signatures. With Tucana demonstrating the potential to use these signatures as the basis for diagnostics and tools to stratify patients, 4D pharma thinks they can support the advance of its pipeline of therapeutics based on live bacteria. Having entered Phase I last year, Blautix, a treatment for IBS, is at the front of the pipeline and will act as a proving ground for the potential of the platform developed by Tucana.

Over time, 4D pharma sees the role of the platform expanding to cover other areas of its operation. "We believe the diagnostic platform developed will become an important part of patient care, giving health professionals an understanding of how, or more importantly whether, a patient will respond to a therapeutic regime," 4D pharma CEO Duncan Peyton said in a statement. If 4D pharma delivers on its attempts to accurately predict the efficacy of its products, it could improve its clinical trials while giving it a way to reassure doctors about using a novel type of drug, if any come to market. 

Leeds, United Kingdom-based 4D pharma is handing over 410,603 shares at a price of £7.55 a piece to buy Tucana, while dangling the carrot of a further million shares should the relationship achieve certain milestones. The statement posted by 4D pharma is light on details about the milestones, but does give indications of the areas into which it sees its collaboration with Tucana developing. Cash is being committed to microbiome research at the APC Microbiome Institute, the birthplace of Tucana, and 4D pharma sees the capabilities it has gained access to supporting pipeline expansion.

"[The platform will expand] the information within 4D pharma to understand and potentially address new therapeutic areas," Peyton said. 4D pharma set out to research the potential for bacteria to treat autoimmune, respiratory and central nervous system disorders--picking up investment from Neil Woodford on the way--before adding cancer to its list of target indications last year.

- read the statement