A new class of microbiome-derived cancer immunotherapy agents to be used in combination with checkpoint inhibitor drugs, are set to be developed by Vedanta Biosciences and NYU Langone Medical Center. While the immunotherapies will be aimed at improving the efficacy of currently-available oncology drugs, they could also act as monotherapeutics for cancer treatment.
Earlier this year, Vedanta secured $50 million in funding to develop microbiome therapeutics to treat infectious and autoimmune diseases. The company – founded by PureTech Health – hopes to get these drugs into the clinic in 2017.
“Dr. Weber is a pioneer in translational research, particularly in immunotherapy and the development of checkpoint inhibitors,” said CSO of Vedanta, Bruce Roberts, commenting on the leader of the project. “We look forward to working with Dr. Weber to expand Vedanta’s portfolio of immune activating microbial cocktails for use in standalone immunotherapy and in combination with checkpoint inhibitors.”
Verdanta’s interest in oncology comes at a turbulent time in microbiome therapeutics research. A Phase II clinical trial of an oral microbiome drug, led by Seres Therapeutics, failed to meet its endpoint of reducing the risk of Clostridium difficile infection.
The company’s collaboration with NYU aims to investigate the mechanisms by which gut bacteria impact checkpoint inhibitor drug efficacy as a cancer therapy. Vedanta researchers believe that human gut bacteria could be harnessed to develop effective immunotherapies.
“Checkpoint inhibitors are a major advance in cancer therapy, but many patients do not respond to therapy, and some patients who respond will eventually relapse,” said Dr. Jeffrey Weber, who is the deputy director of the Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Langone. “Recent data suggest an important role for the microbiome in the anti-tumor activity of immunotherapy, and our other studies of the microbiome will offer interesting new clinical insights into how and why these treatments work.”