Seed Health, a microbiome science company, and Axial Therapeutics, a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company, announced a joint development program targeting the microbiome-gut-brain axis for mental health, with the potential to impact well-being in areas like anxiety, depression and stress response.
The program builds on the work of Axial co-founder and Board Member and Seed Health Board Member Dr. Sarkis Mazmanian, whose California Institute of Technology (Caltech) lab first discovered the critical contributions of intestinal microbes and microbial metabolites in neuropsychiatric conditions.
With joint expertise across discovery, mechanistic validation, microbial fermentation, scale-up, clinical research and commercialization, the program is uniquely positioned to transform the current paradigm of treatment in mental health.
The Microbiome-Gut-brain axes
In the past fifteen years, the gut microbiome has emerged as one of the critical regulators of brain function. Known as the gut-brain axis (or, more specifically, the microbiome-gut-brain axis), this bidirectional line of communication impacts the central nervous system and, in turn, mood, cognition, and motor and autonomic activity.
Dr. Mazmanian’s lab was the first to discover that molecular signals from gut bacteria can profoundly influence anxiety behavior. More recently, a study published in Nature from the Sarkis Mazmanian Lab revealed that specific microbes alone can modulate neuronal activity in the hypothalamus to reduce levels of the stress hormone corticosterone (known in humans as cortisol) and regulate social behaviors.
“Until recently, we’ve lacked clarity into how the gut microbiome regulates emotions and impacts complex behaviors,” explained Dr. Mazmanian, PhD., Luis & Nelly Soux Professor of Microbiology in the Division of Biology & Biological Engineering at Caltech. “A growing body of research is advancing understanding of the gut-brain axis and revealing the potential for microbial innovations to maintain or even improve mental well-being. The collaboration between Seed Health and Axial Therapeutics will translate this breakthrough research into novel probiotics and living medicines for a range of cognitive and neuropsychiatric outcomes.”
The development program will be overseen by Seed Health Co-founder and Co-CEO Raja Dhir and recently-appointed Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) Dr. Dirk Gevers, former Head of J&J’s Janssen Human Microbiome Institute.
“The work of Dr. Mazmanian and the Axial team brings us to a critical inflection point in gut-brain research, unlocking insights that allow movement beyond correlation to causation,” stated Dr. Gevers. “We now have the human-centric data defining the gut-mediated mechanisms that influence behavior. At the same time, we reveal the potential to harness specific bacterial strains to repress the metabolites implicated in a range of neurological applications.”
“Axial was founded to help realize the potential of the gut-brain axis as a new framework for the treatment of mental health and neurological conditions. This collaboration with Seed Health complements our existing work in small molecule therapies and expands the application of our research and opportunity for impact,” said Stewart Campbell, CEO of Axial Therapeutics. “Our deep expertise in this field, combined with Seed’s impressive work in microbiome and product innovation, solidifies a powerful force in gut-brain development.”
“The gut-brain connection and the resulting commercialization is an area where evangelism has largely outpaced the data. The emergence of ‘psychobiotics,’ for example, while often not evidence-based, is evidence of the growing willingness and hope for new interventions,” explained Ara Katz, Co-founder and Co-CEO of Seed Health. “Existing treatments do not consider nor target the underlying role of the gut microbiome. This disruptive approach unlocks a promising future for the millions who experience and suffer from a range of mental health conditions and disorders.”
About Seed Health | Seed
Seed Health is a microbiome science company pioneering innovations in probiotics and living medicines to impact human and planetary health. Founded to realize the potential of microbes, our platform enables the translation of breakthrough science across a portfolio encompassing both indication-specific and preventive applications for gastrointestinal and digestive health, women’s health, skin and oral care, pediatrics, mental health, metabolic function and nutrition. Our consumer innovations are commercialized under Seed® with a mission to bring much-needed precision, efficacy, education, and perspective-shifting science communication to the global category of probiotics. Environmental research is conducted under SeedLabs, which was founded to develop novel bacterial interventions to enhance biodiversity and restore ecosystems impacted by human activity.
LUCA Biologics, co-founded with Dr. Jacques Ravel, develops living medicines targeting the vaginal microbiome for urogenital and reproductive health.
About Axial Therapeutics
Axial Therapeutics is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery and development of gut-restricted, small molecule therapeutics for central nervous system (CNS) disorders. The company is leveraging its expertise in the gut-brain axis and its unique drug development platform to advance novel therapies that have the potential to transform the treatment paradigm in neurodegenerative diseases.
About Dr. Sarkis Mazmanian
Dr. Sarkis K. Mazmanian is leading research into how the gut microbiome impacts and communicates with the immune and nervous systems. His work is specifically focused on how the two-way internal communication highway known as the “gut-brain axis” influences complex diseases of the brain, such as Parkinson’s, autism and Alzheimer’s diseases. Sarkis has received numerous awards including the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” award and Discover Magazine’s “Best Brains in Science.” Currently the Luis & Nelly Soux Professor of Microbiology in the Division of Biology and Biological Engineering at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Sarkis is also a member of Seed Health’s Scientific Board, founder of three biotech companies, and the proud mentor of countless students and postdoctoral fellows who have gone on to successful independent careers in medicine, industry, and academia.