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Microbiome Therapies Company Unveils, Raises $50M

Microbiome graphic

(Tony Webster, Flickr)

6 Oct. 2020. A new enterprise is underway developing therapeutics targeting bacterial communities in the body, to treat metabolic disorders and cancer. The one year-old Federation Bio in South San Francisco, California is also raising $50 million in its first venture funding round.

The microbiome, the collection of bacteria found naturally in the body, particularly in the gut, is an emerging area of research and opportunity for therapies, including for diseases not usually associated with bacteria or the gut. Federation Bio identifies and isolates collections of naturally occurring bacterial strains for long-term treatments that supplement existing microbial communities in humans. In addition, the company develops immunotherapies from genetically engineered bacteria that act in the microbiome to stimulate specific T-cell responses in the immune system.

Federation Bio’s lead program is a microbial therapy for secondary hyperoxaluria, increased urinary excretion of oxalate, an organic compound found in many plants. Oxalate binds to minerals in the gut, kidneys, or urinary tract and are normally excreted in stools or urine. For some people, however, high oxalate diets raise the risk of kidney stones. Primary hyperoxaluria is an inherited form of the condition, where defective enzyme activity impedes oxalate metabolism. Secondary hyperoxaluria is an acquired condition resulting from increased consumption of oxalates or alteration in gut microbes that leads to kidney stones, and in some cases more serious kidney diseases. The company says some 200,000 people in the U.S. are affected by secondary hyperoxaluria.

Federation Bio’s secondary hyperoxaluria therapy consists of gut microbes that degrade oxalates, but are supported by beneficial bacterial strains that encourage uptake in the gut, as well as a durable response for long-term elimination of oxalates. The company says its secondary hyperoxaluria therapy is in preclinical development. Federation says it’s also discovering microbial treatments for cancer, other metabolic disorders, and immune-related diseases.

The company’s scientific founders are biomedical engineering and microbiology professor Michael Fischbach and Dylan Dodd, professor of pathology, microbiology, and immunology, both at Stanford University. “Our ability to engineer beneficial commensal bacteria so that they modulate immune function creates an enormously powerful tool,” says Fischbach in a Federation Bio statement released through Cision. “This platform has demonstrated potential to induce immune responses relevant to target diseases including cancer and autoimmune disorders.”

Technology investor Venrock in Palo Alto, California helped form Federation Bio last year, and provided much of its seed capital. The company’s first venture funding round is led by Horizons Ventures in Hong Kong, joined by Venrock and existing investor Altitude, as well as new investors Seventure Partners and Health for Life Capital. Proceeds from the financing are expected to advance the company’s secondary hyperoxaluria treatment toward clinical trials, as well as build the company’s manufacturing facility.

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