Nestlé Health Science and Enterome have joined forces to create a microbiome-based diagnostics startup. The 50-50 joint venture starts life with $23 million from Nestlé, an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) test from Enterome that is nearing the market and a platform for finding biomarkers.
Forming the joint venture—called Microbiome Diagnostics Partners (MDP)—moves Nestlé deeper into the microbiome sector, an industry it has established a foothold in through investments and deals with companies including Enterome and Seres Therapeutics. In return for its latest financial outlay, Nestlé is gaining a 50% stake in MDP and exclusive commercialization options on the joint venture’s initial programs.
To secure its 50% stake, Enterome is contributing its diagnostic platform and programs to MDP. The French biotech set up shop five years ago to develop drugs. But to tackle the then-nascent science of microbiome drug discovery, it first had to understand what was wrong with patients’ microbial ecosystems.
This led Enterome to develop technology that gives a “precise image of the composition of the gut microbiome in the context of the phenotypic expression of the disease,” CEO Pierre Belichard said. The discovery of potential diagnostics followed.
Yet Enterome set out to be a drug developer, not a diagnostic shop. And as such it started to look for ways to facilitate the development of the diagnostics while retaining its focus on therapeutics. This led Enterome to the door of one of its investors: Nestlé.
The result is MDP. The startup’s first big task is to bring IBD110 to market. Enterome discovered and worked to clinically validate the microbiome-derived biomarker in patients with IBD, the umbrella term for ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.
“It's a fecal test developed with the goal of finding a surrogate marker of mucosal healing,” Belichard said.
Rather than attempt to supplant colonoscopies in IBD diagnosis and monitoring, Enterome sought to position IBD110 as a way for physicians to keep tabs on the level of disease activity between the performance of these invasive tests. Providing physicians with more frequent feedback on the level of inflammation in their patients could result in more effective treatment plans.
Responsibility for taking IBD110 the final mile to market will fall on MDP. Collaborating with Nestlé’s Prometheus Laboratories, MDP plans to combine IBD110 with its partner’s serum-based mucosal healing biomarker.
“We believe that the combination of the two should lead in a year from now to a biomarker that should be on the market in the U.S.,” Belichard said.
MDP will also work on tests for progressive liver diseases, such as NASH. This program is based on Enterome’s research into the MET210 biomarker.