Gilead, Second Genome Partner to Explore Microbial Biomarkers
By Ruchi Jhonsa, Ph.D.
Exploring the link between the gut microbiome and disease progression, Gilead Sciences collaborates with Second Genome to identify biomarkers associated with clinical response. That includes up to five of Gilead’s pipeline compounds developed against inflammation, fibrosis and other diseases. The duo plans to tap on the idea that inflammatory disease progression can be linked to gut microbiome status and by identifying biomarkers one can precisely dose the medication for a patient.
CEO of Second Genome, Karim Dabbagh said, “Microbiome holds insight into patient heterogeneity as well as response to specific therapies. These differences enable the identification of important biomarkers to enhance precision medicine for better patient segmentation as well as potential combination therapies.” Besides biomarker identification, the two companies also plan to identify new potential targets and therapeutic candidates for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
The Terms of the Deal
The agreement promises an upfront payment of $38 million to Second Genome along with approximately $300 million in success-based preclinical, clinical, regulatory and commercial milestones for each of five target discovery programs. The company is also eligible for low double digits royalty for any approved product as well as success-based milestones for each validated biomarker delivered under the agreement. Gilead, on the other hand, will have the option to own worldwide rights for up to five programs for all diseases along with exclusive rights to all the biomarkers discovered and developed under the collaboration.
What will be the Output?
Second genome will run its proprietary Microbiome Analytics Platform to discover novel biomarkers associated with clinical response to Gilead’s investigational medicines. Now that studies have shown how the gut microbiome of a person influences disease treatment, this data will help Gilead determine the right kind of drug and dosage for an individual patient. This platform will also be used for identifying new targets and drug candidates relevant to IBD. According to the terms, up to five novel IBD targets or drug candidates will be discovered over the next four years, with an option to extend the collaboration for another two years.
Rising Interest in the Gut Microbiome
Gilead’s entry in the microbiome field coincides with recent developments in gut microbiota-cancer therapeutics research. The research published last month suggested that certain cancer treatments are sensitive to the presence of gut bacteria and can be rendered ineffective if the bacteria are removed. In the last couple of years, a number of indications including Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, obesity, and AIDS were associated with alterations in the gut microbiome which resulted in a number of big pharma forming partnerships with the microbiome companies. Late last year, Merck went into collaboration with 4D pharma to develop live gut bacteria vaccines for three indications and Takeda formed the collaboration with Finch Therapeutics to develop microbiome therapeutics. The list also includes Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Bristol-Myers Squibb. Although the link between gut microbiota and disease treatments is still exploratory, it has a lot of potential in the future.
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