Biotech firms race to recruit good bugs

  • 15/11/2017
Close up of hand in rubber glove filling syringe
Photo credit: Getty

Biotech companies are competing to develop medicines using "bugs as drugs" to fight cancer, building on the latest scientific findings that patients with high levels of good gut bacteria are more likely to respond to modern immunotherapy.

Certain bacteria seem to help in cancer by priming immune cells and smoothing the path for immunotherapy drugs known as PD-1 drugs that work by taking the brakes off the immune system.

Seres Therapeutics hopes to become the first company to leverage this discovery through a collaboration with the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas and the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy that will see its microbe medicine tested in a clinical trial.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based firm has an exclusive option to license patent rights under the deal announced on Tuesday.

MD Anderson scientists were among two groups of cancer researchers who reported on the benefits of good gut microbes in the journal Science earlier this month.

The work underscores the importance of the microbiome - the vast community of microbes living inside us - which has been linked to everything from digestive disorders to depression.

Reuters