- Bristol-Myers Squibb is looking for new cancer therapies, and has its sights on the microbes growing in people's stomach and digestive tract. A new deal with life science technology company Enterome aims to further that search.
- The collaboration, which Bristol announced Wednesday, will investigate the human microbiome and the potential immuno-oncology treatments it may offer. Deal terms have Enterome receiving $15 million upfront plus milestone and royalty payments for each candidate developed, while Bristol will maintain exclusive rights to those candidates and any associated intellectual property.
- The human microbiome refers to the landscape of various bacterial communities found in a person's body, each of which is thought to be unique. An increasing amount of research — notably the National Institutes of Health's Human Microbiome Project — focuses on how these bacterial fingerprints relate to human health.
Microbiomes have drawn the interest and dollars of pharma's biggest players in recent years.
In April, Pfizer and Roche led Series B funding for microbiome research company Second Genome that totaled more than $42 million. And last year, Johnson & Johnson inked a licensing agreement with Vedanta Biosciences for its lead microbiome candidate in a deal worth up to $241 million.
In addition to its collaboration with Paris-based Enterome, Bristol entered into a five-year partnership with Johns Hopkins University earlier this month that will evaluate, in part, how microbiomes contribute to anti-tumor activity.
"Scientists have shown that the gut microbiome plays an important role in regulating metabolism, influencing the chemistry in the brain, acting as a barrier to pathogens and regulating the immune system," Bristol said in a Nov. 16 statement. "In the cancer context, recent publications have demonstrated the role of the intestinal microbiome in mediating immune activation in response to chemotherapeutic agents."
Those publications include a study published in November 2013 in the journal Science, which showed gut bacteria can alter the environment around tumors and thereby influence the effectiveness of cancer therapies.
A host of research presented at the American Association for Cancer Research's annual meeting in April also found correlations between bodily bacteria and cancer, such as certain strains of oral bacteria promoting lung cancer.
"Enterome’s focus on target identification and validation along with their significant experience in microbiome research can help to advance our goal to improve outcomes for patients treated with immunotherapies," Bristol's head of discovery Carl Decicco said in the Nov. 16 statement.