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Anizome to bridge valley of death between microbiome research and commercialization

The first company focused on a commercial therapeutic microbiome discovery platform dedicated to animal health and nutrition has been created.

The partners behind the company are Baylor College of Medicine (home to the Alkek Center for Metagenomics and Microbiome Research), leading human microbiome company Diversigen and Stonehaven Incubate – a vehicle for human health companies to expand their work into the animal health space.

Anizome will benefit from Baylor's microbiome technology, Diversigen's commercial know-how in this area and Stonehaven's expertise network in the animal health industry. The company is located in Houston at the Texas Medical Center, which is the world's largest medical complex.

Anizome's chief executive Oliver Hardcastle told Animal Pharm: "Animal health is yet to fully embrace the microbiome. However, there is some amazing research in the animal microbiome but we need more focus on commercial output. A platform approach is needed to bridge the gap between microbiome research and commercialization.

"While over $1 billion has been invested in human health microbiome start-ups, the therapeutic potential of the microbiome in animals is yet to be unlocked."

The three partners have come together to all share an equity stake in Anizome and provide it with initial funding to get its product pipeline off the ground. Mr Hardcastle said a series A funding round with external investors will be pursued later this year.

The company's R&D projects include inflammation, gastrointestinal diseases, dermatology and orthopaedics – split across both food animals and pets.

Anizome intends to develop therapeutic and diagnostic solutions "capable of optimizing performance and preventing disease in animals". The start-up has created a single point of entry to microbiome capabilities spanning the entire product development process.

Good science approach

Anizome's approach is focused on applying "good data science and expert statistical analysis to guarantee accurate results". The firm's platform enables it to fully characterize the microbiome, cultivate targets of interest and test them in high-throughput biological models.

Utilizing next-generation DNA sequencing techniques, Anizome is able to achieve fast, accurate and complete microbiome analysis utilizing samples obtained from oral, skin and intestinal microbiomes. Anizome also uses bioinformatics and bioanalytic capabilities to fully characterize microbiome populations, trends and individual functions. This allows the company to discover novel mechanisms, generate leads and assess the impact of interventions.

The firm already has a pipeline focused on delivering a novel class of therapeutic, which are derived from microbes and bacteriophages to manipulate the microbiome and improve host health.

Mr Hardcastle told Animal Pharm: "Nutrition and health are combining with microbiome at the crossroads, forcing us to rethink the way we treat animal diseases."

While Anizome will be taking a broad approach to species, he said the firm's platform technology will allow it to address companion animals – an area of microbiome research that has largely been overlooked until now.

Mr Hardcastle said: "Recent discoveries are causing us to rethink the way we treat disease in animals. The microbiome holds great promise, not only in reducing antibiotic use in livestock but also in creating personalised solutions for our pets.

"If you were to build this platform from scratch it would take several years, an investment of tens of millions of dollars and require significant expertise. The team we have at Anizome are world leaders in the microbiome sphere and will be developing a pipeline of candidates to tackle some of the most significant animal health challenges. By utilizing the advancements made in human health, we will be able to improve animal welfare and productivity."

Management in place

Mr Hardcastle is a former business consultant with global experience in the pharmaceuticals sector. He was previously at Novartis Animal Health, where he held a range of positions in European key account management, global brand management and strategic planning.

Following the acquisition of the Novartis business by Elanco, Mr Hardcastle worked as an operations consultant in the Elanco Integration Management Office before joining Stonehaven Consulting in 2015.

Anizome also derives key microbiome expertise from its chief scientific officer Scott Carter, who was previously director of nutritional health R&D at Elanco.

Commercialization and partnerships

Mr Hardcastle said Anizome will likely aim to find a commercial partnership for its products when they come to fruition.

As well as its own internal R&D, Anizome plans to execute partnerships, joint ventures and licensing arrangements with industry players to fuel microbiome innovation. The firm is also interested in working with other microbiome companies that have discovery or proprietary assets with potential in animal health.

Additionally, the firm is working with academic researchers and institutes "to generate samples from controlled disease cohorts and explore the role of the microbiome".

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