M&A review 2021: January’s M&A, licensing, and investment roundup

The 3rd Edition Marketsandmarkets Next Gen Microbiome and Probiotics - Virtual Conference, scheduled to be held on 25th and 26th February 2021 will go live to unite global industry attendees on one virtual platform.

Every month MicrobiomePost brings you our highlights of the most important news and investments taking place. While we kicked off 2021 with a slightly quieter month in January, there was still significant activity:

  • Paris-based Eligo Bioscience became one of a growing number of biotech firms to gain a deal from big pharma focused on the skin microbiome, after a research and option agreement with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) worth up to €185M was signed last month. The deal aims to at advance Eligobiotics® for the treatment or prevention of acne vulgaris with a pioneering CRISPR-based therapeutic for strain-specific microbiome modulation. Under the agreement, Eligo will receive an upfront payment and R&D funding to advance EB005, its discovery program in acne, until preclinical proof of concept. If GSK exercises its option, GSK and Eligo will enter into a license and collaboration agreement to jointly continue the development of EB005 in acne. Eligo would be eligible to receive up to a total of $224 million in license fees and potential milestone payments, as well as royalties on global sales.
  • Clinical-stage microbiome therapies specialist Vedanta Biosciences was given a boost as Pfizer made a $25 million investment as part of its Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. Vedanta says the proceeds of the investment will be used to fund a Phase 2 study of its VE202 candidate in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) – set to commence in 2021. Vedanta specialises in developing therapies for immune-mediated diseases based on rationally defined consortia of human microbiome-derived bacteria. Data from its Phase 1 trial of VE202 showed the candidate was safe and well-tolerated at all doses, in addition to showing durable and dose-dependent colonization.
  • Global biosciences player Novozymes completed the acquisition of Microbiome Labs in a deal that will significantly boost Novozymes’ position in the North American probiotics market. The company said acquiring Microbiome Labs is a key step in building Novozymes’ Human Health platform, bringing a broad range of proprietary solutions to its existing activities and access to the company’s network of health practitioners. “Within a few years, Microbiome Labs has built a solid market position and become a key opinion leader on the microbiome in the consumer health industry, and I am very happy to welcome Microbiome Labs to the Novozymes family,” said Ester Baiget, President and CEO of Novozymes – adding that probiotics for human use is a selected growth area for Novozymes, and it brings the opportunity of advancing our activities within human health. “This is an attractive and relatively young industry and, by acquiring Microbiome Labs, we gain a broader portfolio and a strong position in the North American probiotics market.”
  • New venture firm, OMX Ventures, has moved out of stealth with its first $150 million fund for synthetic biology investments. Since it began operating under-the-radar in May, OMX (pronounced ‘-omics’) has made 15 investments, including in microbiome start-up Finch Therapeutics, blood-data collection firm Tasso, and Tara Biosystems, which makes bioengineered heart muscle for predictive cardiology. OMX co-founders Craig Asher, Dan Fero and Nick Haft have previously worked together on deals, and raised funds for their new venture during COVID-19, including from Merieux family. The fund’s investments range in size from $500,000 to $15 million.