M&A review: Rounding up the biggest M&A, licensing, and investments in September

A new study helps to explain how nerve cells sense the microbes in the gut and how they coordinate their function with other tissues in the digestive tract.

September was another busy month for the microbiome space with multiple deals reported in probiotics, prebiotics, microbiome therapeutics and related biotech areas. Check out our highlights of the most important news and deals taking place last month:

Finch Therapeutics, a clinical-stage microbiome drug development company, announced a $90 million Series D financing round. The proceeds will be used to advance its lead therapeutic candidate CP101 through the final stages of clinical development and regulatory submission in recurrent C. difficile infection (CDI). Funds will also be used to Finch’s wider platform and pipeline, including the initiation of Phase 1b studies evaluating FIN-211 for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and CP101 for chronic hepatitis B (HBV). New investors in the round include Baupost Group, Humboldt Fund, MSD Capital, MSD Partners, Octave Group, and OMX Ventures, along with support from existing investors, like Avenir Growth Capital, OCV Partners, Shumway Capital, SIG, SymBiosis, TPTF, and Willett Advisors.

DuPont’s Human Microbiome Venture signed a research partnership with Procter & Gamble (P&G), focusing on the discovery and development of innovative next generation probiotics (NGPs) for human health. Both P&G and DuPont have already conducted extensive research on human commensals to help address metabolic health issues in humans. The two companies said the joint research deal will help accelerate the development and commercialization of NGPs, initially to be used in dietary supplements.

Chr. Hansen sealed a deal worth €310 million to buy out leading human milk oligosaccharide (HMO) player Jennewein Biotechnologie. Chr. Hansen said the team is in line with its 2025 Strategy of pursuing bolt-on acquisitions that extend and strengthen its microbial and fermentation technology platforms. The company said Jennewein is expected to generate sales of around EUR 50 million in 2021, but with a net EBIT loss.

Siolta Therapeutics, a clinical-stage biotech company, said it has raised $30M in a series B investment round to support the clinical development of its lead product, STMC-103H. The series funding involved participation from top-tier investors and venture firms, including series A investors Khosla Ventures and Marc Benioff as well as new investors Seventure (Health for Life Capital Fund), SymBiosis, and Global Brain (Kirin Health Innovation Fund/GB-VII).

BiomX, a clinical stage company developing natural and engineered phage therapies that target specific pathogenic bacteria, announced a collaboration with Boehringer Ingelheim to utilize its microbiome-based biomarker discovery platform BiomX XMarker to identify biomarkers associated with patient phenotypes in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The collaboration will see BiomX will generate metagenomic data of gut microbiome samples obtained from IBD patients with the aim of identifying biomarkers using the XMarker platform. Terms of the deal include an option for Boehringer Ingelheim to negotiate exclusive rights to biomarkers discovered utilizing the platform.

Vedanta Biosciences, a clinical-stage company developing a new category of therapies for immune-mediated diseases based on rationally-defined consortia of human microbiome-derived bacteria, announced funding of up to $76.9 million, with $7.4 million upfront and potential for up to an additional $69.5 million, from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to advance clinical development of its VE303 candidate for high-risk Clostridioides difficile infection (CDI). Funding will support completion of an ongoing Phase 2 trial and further clinical development of VE303 – a rationally-defined, orally-administered live biotherapeutic product (LBP) consisting of eight well-characterized commensal bacterial strains designed to effect robust and durable therapeutic changes in a patient’s gut microbiota.

Locus Biosciences signed a deal with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to co-fund development of LBP-EC01, a CRISPR Cas3-enhanced bacteriophage (crPhage™) product that will target Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria causing recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs). Under the partnership agreement, BARDA will provide up to $77 million in funding to Locus as part of a $144 million program to support Phase 2 and Phase 3 clinical trials and other activities required to seek marketing approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for LBP-EC01.

Sun Genomics, a direct-to-consumer custom probiotics and gut health company, closed a $9.25 million Series A funding round led by Pangaea Ventures, with new investments from Orion Fund, managed by K3 Ventures, and Emerging Technologies Partners. Sun Genomics will use this round of funding to support its growth in the custom probiotics market, scale delivery across the U.S., enter international markets, and propel the publication of its studies in partnership with leading academic institutions. In addition to the Series A close, Sun Genomics announces Dr. Jack Gilbert, PhD, as medical and scientific advisor, and Mayank Goel as vice president of growth.

Arranta Bio, a leading microbiome contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO), said it is investing more than $100 million in 2020 as it looks to establish state of the art, multi-product, commercial-ready manufacturing facility that will supply live biotherapeutic products (LBPs) to microbiome innovator companies. Arranta said it had completed investment in GMP suites at its Watertown, MA commercial-ready facility – designed to the highest specifications for advanced biologics production.

bitBiomea Tokyo, a Japan-based microbiome analytics company, raised 700 million JPY (approx. $6.6m US) in Series B financing. Backers included The University of Tokyo Edge Capital Partners, Universal Materials Incubator, and other Japan-based venture capital firms. Founded in November 2018 as a spinout from Waseda University, bitBiome provides the proprietary bit-MAP® platform, a single-cell genome analysis technology specific to microorganisms. This new funding, which brings bitBiome’s total equity financing to 1.05 billion yen (approx. $10m US), will support the company’s growth by boosting in-house research capabilities, help purchasing lab equipment including a next-generation sequencer, securing and managing IP, and further strengthen R&D capabilities and throughput.

Swiss pharmaceutical player BioVersys closed a CHF 19m Series B financing round. The company focuses on developing small molecules for multidrug-resistant bacterial infections with applications in Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR) and targeted microbiome modulation. BioVersys said the funds – which complement the CHF 16.5m of non-dilutive funding raised in 2019 from CARB-X and the IMI2-JU/European Union – to advance BV100 and BVL-GSK098, its two lead assets of infectious disease candidates into first in human clinical trials.

LNC Therapeutics announced it is changing its name to YSOPIA Bioscience. The French biotech, which focuses on harnessing the properties of keystone single-strain bacteria to develop ground-breaking microbiome-based drugs, was founded in 2010 to address the root causes of obesity and associated metabolic disorders. Following a recent approval by the U.S. FDA of its clinical trial application (IND) in obesity and associated metabolic diseases, the name change marks YSOPIA Bioscience’s development strategy and its transition to a clinical stage biotechnology company.