Mayo Continues Venture Funding of Gut Microbiome Companies with Latest Stake
The Mayo Clinic is continuing to place venture capital investment bets on the promise of the human gut microbiome as an avenue for the advancement of medical science.
After taking equity stakes in San Francisco-based Second Genome in 2014 and again last year, as well as in Israeli startup DayTwo earlier in 2017, it was revealed last week that Mayo Clinic Ventures has also taken part in a $50 million Series B financing round for Evelo Biosciences of Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The latest financing continues a pattern of ever-bigger venture capital investments by Mayo, other VCs and the pharmaceutical industry into a growing coterie of biotech companies at the cutting edge of microbiome research, which some are calling the next big thing in biotech. These firms are promising to enlist the 100 trillion bacteria and other microorganisms that make up the microbiome of gut bacteria into the fight against illness.
Evelo, founded two years ago with a big initial investment from Flagship Ventures, concentrates on producing strains of naturally occurring microbes which, when introduced into the body, can selectively target certain gut cells to produce desired biological effects, according to the company. In this way, it hopes to “fundamentally change traditional models of drug discovery and development.”
“By selecting naturally occurring monoclonal microbials with defined biological effects,” it said in a release, “Evelo can improve the speed, cost and success of drug discovery and development. Evelo's platform enables pharmacological intervention at all stages of disease with naturally occurring, safe and effective monoclonal microbials.”
Citing emerging evidence that gut microbes play a big role in directing the body’s response to cancer and “immuno-inflammatory” diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, those are first areas being targeted by Evelo and its designer microbes.
The financing round was again led by Flagship Ventures, with participation from Mayo, GV (the venture capital arm of Google/Alphabet), Celgene and Alexandria Venture Investments. Evelo said the proceeds from the financing will be used to advance multiple monoclonal microbial product candidates into clinical studies in oncology and immunoinflammatory diseases by next year.
It will also serve to fund an expansion of its product platform.
Mayo Ventures’ latest financial foray into the microbiome space comes a year after its investment in Second Genome was noted as part of what was then one of the biggest VC-led fundings in the field.
Second Genome’s product is essentially a platform that combines genomics technologies, computational biology, and phenotypic screening which allows researchers to develop drugs targeting selected proteins, peptides and metabolites of various gut microbes which are suspected of playing “a causal role in human disease and wellness.”
DayTwo, meanwhile, is seeking to commercialize what it touts as its unique ability to develop healthy diet regimens based on personalized readings of patients’ gut bacteria.