The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Federation Bio, a biotechnology company pioneering bacterial cell therapies, announced a strategic collaboration to design and manufacture a complex, synthetic microbial consortium with the goal of expanding the number of cancer patients who respond to immunotherapy.
The agreement pairs Federation Bio’s proprietary ACT™ (anerobic co-culture technology) platform with the expertise and capabilities of MD Anderson’s Platform for Innovative Microbiome and Translational Research (PRIME-TR).
Immune checkpoint inhibitors and other forms of immunotherapy have dramatically improved outcomes for many with cancer, but many patients do not benefit from these treatments. Previous work, including research led by MD Anderson, demonstrates the gut microbiome is a key mediator of individual response to checkpoint inhibitors. Further, early findings suggest that fecal microbiota transplants (FMT) from individuals who respond to checkpoint inhibitors may improve outcomes for those who did not previously benefit.
Unfortunately, the application of FMT in this setting has been hindered by the inability to scale up manufacturing or modify FMT for enhanced therapeutic benefit.
Under the agreement, MD Anderson and Federation Bio intend to rationally design a complex consortium of bacteria derived from a donor fecal sample that has a demonstrated ability to improve immunotherapy responses in cancer patients via FMT in a clinical trial. Federation Bio will use its proprietary ACT™ platform to manufacture the consortium from purified cell lines, generating a therapy that comprises the full metabolic complexity of the identified microbiome and is optimized for therapeutic benefit.
“Federation Bio’s demonstrated ability to engineer complex, synthetic bacterial consortia and produce them at scale offers an exciting avenue to potentially improve cancer immunotherapy responses,” said Jennifer Wargo, M.D., professor of Genomic Medicine and Surgical Oncology and director of PRIME-TR at MD Anderson. “Published evidence supports the potential of this approach, and we believe this collaboration will enable us to accelerate the development and evaluation of microbial cell therapies for our patients.”
Federation Bio’s ACT™ platform uniquely enables the production of highly controlled bacterial consortia that have been rationally designed to address a broad range of diseases and disorders. The company already has used the platform to design and manufacture FB-001, an investigational oral therapy consisting of 148 bacterial strains isolated from multiple healthy donors. Federation Bio currently is evaluating FB-001 in a Phase I clinical trial; it is the first rationally designed complex consortium at this scale to enter clinical studies.
“We are proud to be collaborating with MD Anderson, an institution that is leading the charge globally to advance microbiome-based approaches that could dramatically improve outcomes for cancer patients,” said Emily Drabant Conley, Ph.D., chief executive officer at Federation Bio. “We’ve demonstrated that our ACT™ platform enables the manufacture of complex, rationally designed microbial consortia at scale through the manufacture of FB-001, and this collaboration enables us to explore its potential in oncology, where there is both high unmet need and evidence supporting the critical role of the microbiome in driving therapeutic response.”
PRIME-TR is a novel institutional platform that aims to transform the landscape of cancer treatment, diagnosis and prevention through studying and targeting the microbiome at multiple different niches. Supported by MD Anderson’s Moon Shots Program®, PRIME-TR works to advance microbiome-based applications as a complement to other foundational discoveries and cancer treatments, including immune-based strategies and other therapeutic approaches.