Pfizer Joins Microbiome Movement with Second Genome

May 9, 2014
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gut bacteria prebioticsFirst published on MedCityNews.com. Scientific understanding of the microbiome – the ecosystem of bacteria in the gut – has matured to the point where the pharmaceutical industry recognizes it as a critical part of drug discovery, says Peter DiLaura, CEO of Second Genome.

gut bacteria prebioticsFirst published on MedCityNews.com. Scientific understanding of the microbiome – the ecosystem of bacteria in the gut – has matured to the point where the pharmaceutical industry recognizes it as a critical part of drug discovery, says Peter DiLaura, CEO of Second Genome.

“The microbiome certainly is not total picture of disease, but there’s now recognition that you can’t ignore it if you’re trying to understand complex chronic diseases,” he said.

Second Genome has just struck its second Big Pharma deal to explore the role of microbes in disease, and to identify potential new drug targets. Last summer, it paired up with Janssen Biotech to study ulcerative colitis. Now it’s working with Pfizer on what DiLaura called the largest microbiome study in humans to date.

In an effort to better understand the relationship between the microbiome, obesity and metabolic disorders, they’ll study about 900 obese individuals selected by a team at Massachussets General Hospital over 12 months. In addition to looking at their microbiomes, they’ll also look at their genome and other components of the host biology to understand how interactions between the gut microbes of obese and non-obese people differ.

A correlation between microbes and metabolic disease has emerged in several recent studies, including studies of microbiome transplants in mice. Now that the correlation has been established, DiLaura said, it’s time to untangle the functional relationships that microbes have with the host, to determine how they could best be modulated to prevent or correct a diseased state.

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For Pfizer, that knowledge could lead to better drugs for obesity and diabetes.

“Understanding the complex set of interactions between the gut microbes in obese and non-obese individuals is critical to our research in metabolic disease, a key area of focus at Pfizer,” said Barbara Sosnowski, vice President of external R&D innovation at Pfizer, in a statement.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

San Bruno, California-based Second Genome has raised more than $11 million in funding since its inception in 2009.