The Summer Review: M&A, licensing, and investments from July and August

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.

July and August are usually quieter months in the industry, as offices close and staff take some well-deserved time off.

But in the era of COVID, it seems that it was pretty much ‘business as usual’ for many, with a couple of relatively busy months 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 in the last two months:

July deals & highlights

bd-capital, a pan-European private equity firm, announced its inaugural investment in July, as it sealed the acquisition of UK-based probiotics disruptor Symprove. Following the investment by bd-capital, founder Barry Smith will remain on the board of Symprove, whilst Mike Butler will continue as CEO. David Johnston, Operating Partner at bd-capital, will become Chairman, bringing with him 20 years of FMCG industry expertise.

“It is clear to us from our interactions with Barry and the Symprove team, our own diligence, and review of both the scientific materials and customer feedback, that Symprove not only has the opportunity for significant future growth, but the potential to change the lives of millions of people living with conditions and symptoms that, today, have very limited treatment options,” said Richard Baker, Managing Partner and co-Founder of bd-capital, and former CEO of Alliance Boots.

Seventure Partners announced it had gained approval from the technical committee of the French government initiative, which was set up to support financing of technology companies, for its Health for Life Capital II ™ as the first and only microbiome-focused fund. As part of the initiative, French institutional investors have committed to devote over €5 billion to the financing of innovative companies by December 31, 2022. Seventure’s Health for Life Capital™ fund (HFL 2) is the world’s co-leading and Europe’s leading investment fund specialising in the field of the microbiome, bringing together a team of 12 life science investors and eight operating experts in five European offices. Continuing its successful “beyond the pill” investment strategy, HFL 2 primarily invests in areas related to the microbiota revolution, including platforms, drugs, nutritional solutions, diagnostics, and biomarkers. In addition, the fund also makes one-off investments in digital therapeutics, connected and digital health solutions, personalized nutrition, personalized medicine and foodtech. The funds invest in all stages (seed, venture, and significantly in growth capital), to date with around twenty innovative portfolio companies of an average ticket size of €15M, in one to three successive financing rounds. The funds target start-ups and more established innovative SMEs with a turnover of around €50M from all over the world, with particular focus on Europe, North America, Israel and Asia.

Biose Industrie announced the closing of a €30 million funding round led by Cathay Capital, alongside the company’s management team, banking partners and the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. The funding will support Biose Industrieport as it accelerates its development and strengthens its leadership position in the field of microbiome therapeutics. The company provides pharmaceutical laboratories and biotechs worldwide with a complete and integrated service carrying out these drugs’ entire production process, from design to finished products. New investment will accelerate the firms ambitious roadmap initiated 3 years ago and so increase its production capacities in all areas, from development to commercial production, strengthen its teams, and through scaling up its international expansion, it will broaden its offer, develop its turnover and consolidate its global leadership.

Cork-based biotech SeqBiome will provide firms with insights into how food and ingredients interact with our gut microbiome after spinning out from APC Microbiome Ireland, SFI Research Centre, University College Cork and Teagasc. The firm will provide high-quality and interactive sequencing and microbiome analysis services for academia and industry and already boast an impressive list of clients including Atlantia, Microbion, PrecisionBiotics Group, Mars Petcare, Nestlé and the Alpinia Institute. Based on a team of co-founders with more than 40 years of combined published microbiome experience and over 350 papers and 23,000 citations, SeqBiome will provide a ‘comprehensive’ offering that spans the microbiome continuum – with an aim of creating meaningful microbiome insights for clients across industries including pharmaceuticals, nutrition, sport and healthcare.

DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences will collaborate with Rutgers University on research focusing on improving cancer therapy outcomes by reducing gut inflammation linked caused by chemotherapy. The two year research pact will see DuPont’s Human Microbiome Venture (HMV) link up with the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine (CABM) at Rutgers to explore whether modulation of the microbiome can improve cancer treatment response rates. Research will build on findings of previous work that shows orally delivered cancer drugs can induce enterocolitis, a condition that causes inflammation of the digestive tract and specifically affects the inner linings of both the small intestine and the colon – leading to vomiting and diarrhoea amongst other symptoms. Specifically, the collaboration will explore whether the administration of beneficial microbes could lead to improving overall patient care and comfort while undergoing cancer treatment.

August deals & highlights

In August, leading microbiome therapeutics platform Seres Therapeutics announced – and later closed – an underwritten public offering (IPO) of 2,075,000 shares of its common stock, at a public offering price of $21.50 per share. As of market close on August 28, Seres Therapeutics share price sat at $24.48 USD, putting the company’s market cap value at $2.15 billion. News of the IPO came days after Seres announced positive top line data for its phase III study of a targeted microbiome therapeutic candidate for recurrent C. Difficile infection.

US-based Scioto Biosciences announced it has closed a strategic investment of up to $26.5M from South Korean-based biotech Genome & Company, and other investors. The funding will continue to support clinical development of Scioto’s lead drug candidate, SB-121, which targets disorders related to the gut-brain axis like Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as well as disorders related to gut-injury such as Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC) which affects premature infants. SB-121 is built on Scioto Biosciences’ proprietary ABT (Activated Bacterial Therapeutics) Platform. The deal gives Genome & Co a majority stake in Scioto and expands its presence into the US.

Novome Biotechnologies, a biotech engineering living medicines for chronic diseases signed a deal to acquire certain microbial intellectual property, and has non-exclusively licensed foundational CRISPR-Cas9 intellectual property controlled by leading CRISPR genome editing firm Caribou Biosciences. Novome says the deal will expand its therapeutic pipeline and platform capabilities and is an important milestone “that should unlock new therapeutic avenues while we accelerate the pace of preclinical development at the company.”

Early cancer-detection biotech Micronoma closed a $3 million seed financing round led by microbiome-focused investor, SymBiosis, LLC. The company was founded in June 2019 by its three co-founders: Sandrine Miller-Montgomery, CEO of Micronoma, previously Executive Director of the Center for Microbiome Innovation; Dr. Rob Knight, Director of the Center for Microbiome Innovation at the University of California San Diego (UC San Diego) and Greg Poore, an M.D.-Ph.D. candidate at UC San Diego School of Medicine and co-inventor.
Micronoma has exclusively licensed the original IP on microbial-based cancer diagnostics and therapeutics, created by Poore and Knight, from UC San Diego.