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Collaborations Study Microbiome in Cancer, Metabolic Disease

Gut bacteria illustration

Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron, in white, a type of bacteria living on mammalian cells in the gut (MIT Media Lab/NIH)

12 May 2016. The biopharmaceutical company Seres Therapeutics is sponsoring research into the role of gut microbes in cancer and metabolic disorders, at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and University of Pennsylvania. Financial ]aspects of the agreements between Seres, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Memorial Sloan Kettering and Penn were not disclosed.

Seres Therapeutics discovers and develops therapies related to disruptions in the microbiome, the complex aggregate community of diverse intestinal microbes associated with a wide range of health conditions. These disruptions to the microbiome known as dysbiosis  — resulting from pathogens, antibiotics, diet, or inflammation — are increasingly connected or contribute to many chronic and degenerative diseases.

The company’s technology is based on a library of some 9,000 microbial strains collected from healthy human donors. From this library, Seres uses computational techniques to identify microbial communities in the gut associated with healthy and diseased states, then zeroes-in on specific microorganisms, which in the right combinations, can restore healthy functions in the gut from a state of dysbiosis. The company purifies these target microbial combinations into therapy candidates for testing in lab cultures and animal models, and later in clinical trials.

Seres’s lead candidate in its Ecobiotic product line, code-named SER-109, is a treatment for Clostridium difficile bacterial infections, causing diarrhea and more serious intestinal symptoms, currently being tested in an intermediate-stage clinical trial. In June 2015, SER-109 was designated as a breakthrough therapy by FDA.

In its partnership with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, Seres is supporting studies investigating microbiome-based treatments improving health outcomes of people undergoing hematopoietic or blood-forming stem cell transplants as cancer therapies, to reduce infections and graft-versus-host disease, an immune-system reaction to stem cell transplants. Seres is also sponsoring research into microbiome-related treatments that improve the effectiveness and safety of checkpoint inhibitors in cancer immunotherapies.

In the collaboration, Seres is receiving a global license to Memorial Sloan Kettering’s research on treating hematopoietic stem cell transplants with bacterial-based therapies. One of Seres’s treatment candidates, code-named SER-155, is designed to improve health outcomes for people receiving hematopoietic stem cell transplants.

In the collaboration with University of Pennsylvania’s medical school in Philadelphia, Seres is sponsoring research by gastroenterology professors Gary Wu and James Lewis testing designed bacterial treatments for ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease. Wu and Lewis will also study the role of microbiome disruptions in urea cycle disorders, a rare genetic metabolic disease where nitrogen accumulates in the blood forming ammonia, as well as other metabolic conditions.

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