The microbiome has been increasingly in focus for years; and, although the pandemic might have caused some disruption, microbiome research hasn’t slowed down at all, notes Isabelle de Cremoux, CEO and Managing Partner, Seventure Partners
On the contrary, investment, partnering and clinical research are on a sharp uptick. As proof of this, microbiome investments have reached a total of $1.5 billion, including public funding.
In fact, 2020 saw a number of significant milestones reached in this field. Last year, more than 640 microbiome-related patents were granted — more than ever before — and approximately 575 clinical trials were launched in this segment, making it close to 2000 ongoing trials related to the microbiome (see below).
There are now hardly any major scientific conferences that don’t include a focused session in this area … and the number of events solely discussing microbiome-related issues has been multiplying.
In terms of research, the first relevant Phase III trial results were announced last year, with both Ferring and Rebiotix, as well as Seres Therapeutics, reaching the end of their studies.
Collaborations boomed and continue to do so. Last year, Gilead and Second Genome announced a deal potentially worth USD 1.5 billion.1 Such co-operations are increasing in number and significance.
In Seventure’s own backyard, our portfolio companies have just announced major deals with big pharma: Vedanta received a sizeable $25 million investment from Pfizer and Eligo teamed up with GSK with a deal potentially worth $224 million.2,3 And this is just the beginning of the year.
This growth is not expected to stop or slow down. We have only just started to understand how important the microbiome is for our health. In 2021, we can expect the first market authorisation of a microbiome-related drug and the indications for clinical studies in this segment are extending rapidly.
Although, initially, gut health and gastrointestinal (GI) disorders were key disease foci, today’s trials are in a much wider range of indications, including obesity, oncology, immunology (including autoimmune diseases and allergies), infectious diseases and even neurology.
Isabelle de Cremoux
What’s more, an increasing number of leading cosmetics companies now consider the skin microbiome to be a key aspect for their R&D and product development efforts.
COVID-19 has also shown us that, until now, our microbiome research might have been too bacteria-centric; we might need to look at the virome and other micro-organisms in this aspect as well.
There are already 40 clinical trials investigating the microbiome and COVID-19, with recent data showing that there is a link between the gut microbiome and the severity and immune response to the infection in individuals.4
The pandemic has also highlighted the need for a thorough understanding of our immune health. This has driven an increasing number of investors to financially support microbiome research to understand how the microbiome can be exploited to promote immune health.
The opportunities are vast; it is predicted that the global human microbiome therapeutics market could reach a value of nearly $148.6 million in 2025.5
In addition to strictly scientific applications of drug candidates or topical treatments, the microbiome can also be utilised to broaden this reach and drive personalised nutrition, dietary supplements, weight loss products and much more.
The microbiome industry is only seeing the beginning of its growth curve, which I expect to be steep; we are now living in the century of the microbiome.