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Biotech Licenses Mayo Clinic Microbiome Research

Gut microbes illustration

Gut microbes illustration (NASA.gov)

16 November 2017. A biotechnology company developing therapies with specialized gut microbes is licensing research from the Mayo Clinic on these microbes’ effects with autoimmune diseases. Financial aspects of the agreement between Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and Evelo Biosciences in Cambridge, Massachusetts were not disclosed.

Evelo Biosciences discovers and produces therapies for a range of disorders from what it calls monoclonal microbials, derived from natural occurring microbes in the microbiome, communities of beneficial bacteria in the gut. The company says it uses computational techniques to identify gut microbes that can activate or infiltrate immune system cells for attacking tumor cells and their supporting microenvironment. Evelo says its monoclonal microbials are also able to induce regulatory T-cells in the immune system to block the actions of proteins associated with inflammation.

The technology licensed from Mayo Clinic is based on research by immunologist Veena Taneja and gastroenterologist Joseph Murray on the effects of microbial imbalances in the gut on rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune condition. With rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system is tricked into attacking healthy cells, that leads to inflammation of joints — wrists, fingers, feet, and ankles — and surrounding tissue.

In a paper published in November 2016, Taneja, Murray, and colleagues reported the effects of Prevotella histicola, a bacterium native to the human gut considered beneficial to the immune system. The Mayo Clinic team induced human rheumatoid arthritis in lab mice, with the animals randomly assigned to receive P. histicola bacteria as treatment, with others left untreated for comparison.

The results show mice receiving the bacteria experienced less arthritic inflammation and less severe inflammation than the untreated mice. The reduced inflammation was traced to reduced autoimmune activity in the treated mice, including generation of regulatory T-cells that often fail to respond to autoimmune conditions. And while the authors say introduction of P. histicola bacteria generated an immune response, the basic or innate immune system in the treated mice remained unaffected.

The agreement gives Evelo Biosciences a worldwide license to the patent rights for this technology. The company says the Mayo Clinic’s findings support its basic technology, and as a result Evelo expects to produce a treatment candidate for clinical trials in 2018.

Evelo Biosciences is a two year-old company, formed by venture investment company Flagship Ventures. In August 2016, the company signed its first collaboration and licensing agreement with Mayo Clinic for microbiome-based cancer therapies. Mayo Clinic, as well as Taneja and Murray, have financial interests in Evelo.

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