French company MaaT Pharma has raised €18M in Series B financing that will support phase Ib and II trials of its biotherapeutic drug, which aims to restore the microbiome and improve outcomes in patients with various types of blood cancer and solid tumors.
The financing round included French microbiome-focused investor Symbiosis, as well as support from MaaT Pharma’s existing backers Seventure Partners, Crédit Mutuel Innovation, and Biocodex.
The human microbiome consists of all the microorganisms that live on or within human tissues. It plays an important role in human health but can become severely disrupted in people undergoing chemotherapy. This then results in increased inflammation and disruption of immune function, and potentially poor treatment outcomes.
Hervé Affagard, CEO of MaaT Pharma, told me that the company’s microbiome-based treatment is designed to restore the diversity of the patient’s microbiome. This can then regulate the immune system and make cancer treatments more effective.
The off-the-shelf drug — given as an enema — is manufactured by pooling intestinal microbiota from healthy donors. It is currently being tested in the HERACLES phase II clinical trial among patients receiving a bone marrow transplant who develop gastrointestinal acute graft-versus-host disease (GvHD) — a condition where the graft immune cells attack healthy tissue in the recipient. The patients in the trial also did not respond to conventional steroid treatments for the condition.
“While all other drugs developed against graft-versus-host disease are focused on suppressing the immune system, the mode of action of our product is totally disruptive and is based on inducing immunotolerance,” Affagard remarked. He added that restoring the microbiome in affected patients could contribute to improving gastrointestinal symptoms.
The €18M funding will allow MaaT Pharma to complete the phase II trial and will also be used for the development of an orally delivered capsule formulation of the same treatment. This oral treatment will then be tested in a phase Ib trial, with the results expected in the second half of 2020.
The easier administration of the capsule formulation will allow MaaT Pharma to expand its pipeline into new oncologic indications such as solid tumors, where it is expected to improve the effects of immunotherapies such as checkpoint inhibitors.
“Checkpoint inhibitors are highly effective only in a small subset of patients,” explained Affagard, adding that the treatment could help patients that don’t normally respond to these drugs.
Laura Cowen is a freelance medical journalist. Her background is in medical microbiology, with a particular interest in public health and infectious diseases. Outside of work she enjoys roller skating, trips to the theatre, and exploring the UK and Europe with her family in their new motorhome Bella.
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