French startup lands $8.7M to advance microbiome therapies

A French startup has raised $8.7 million that it will use to advance large-scale production of therapies based on the human microbiome, a teeming world of bacteria seen as a key to better health.

Founded in 2014, Lyon, France-based MaaT Pharma makes therapies designed to restore a patient’s microbiome to improve the odds of survival in the face of cancer and other diseases.

The company has two therapies in clinical trials, one for patients with blood cancers and one for graft-versus-host disease, a common complication following stem-cell or bone-marrow transplants.

“We plan to expand into additional oncological indications where restoring or modulating the gut microbiome could provide significant therapeutic benefit when combined with other cancer treatments,” Maat Pharma co-founder and CEO Hervé Affagard wrote in an emailed response to questions forwarded by a company spokesperson.

The MaaT Pharma treatment farthest along the clinical-trial path is known as MaaT013, currently made in an enema form. The therapy is being evaluated in a Phase II trial for safety and efficacy in patients with steroid-refractory gut predominant acute graft-versus-host disease. Topline data is expected early next year, Affagard wrote.

The second therapy, MaaT033, entered a Phase I trial in November. Available in capsule form, it is designed to restore functionality of the gut system to improve clinical outcomes and control adverse events related to conventional treatments for cancer, Affagard wrote. The trial is focused on patients with acute myeloid leukemia or high-risk myelodysplastic syndrome following intensive chemotherapy. Preliminary results are expected in late 2021, Affagard said.

MaaT Pharma also is producing MaaT013 for graft-versus-host disease patients under a compassionate-use program in France. So far, 41 patients have received the therapy. The company plans to present clinical data from 29 of those patients at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology, set for Dec. 6, Affagard wrote.

The new $8.7 million investment – an extended Series B round – will support production of therapies for compassionate use, as well as advancement of a large-scale fermentation production platform for microbiome therapeutics. MaaT Pharma employs 34 people.

Investors include the PSIM Fund, which is managed by investment bank Bpifrance on behalf of the French government. Other investors include SkyViews Life Science and Celeste Management.

“MaaT Pharma has developed an innovative portfolio of microbiome-based biotherapeutics that we believe offers tremendous short-term and long-term potential, addressing the needs of advanced-stage cancer patients with limited options,” Muriel Prudent, senior investment manager at Bpifrance, said in a statement.

The first leg of the Series B round closed in February after raising about $20.8 million. That round was led by SymBiosis LLC, with participation from Seventure Partners, Crédit Mutuel Innovation and Biocodex.

Companies focused on the microbiome remain attractive to investors despite the 2019 scandal engulfing one of the field’s best-known startups, uBiome.

Last month, ADM Ventures, the venture capital arm of Chicago-based food giant Archer Daniels Midland, made an undisclosed investment in a Seventure fund focused on health, nutrition, microbiota and digital health.

“With a better understanding of how the microbiome ecosystem works, we can develop functional ingredients for dietary supplements and food and beverage solutions targeted to help improve overall health,” Darren Streiler, managing director of ADM Ventures, said in a statement at the time. “We are focused on looking at new, innovative solutions that can lead to a more balanced bacterial system in your digestive tract, otherwise known as a healthy gut, and can help lead to better health.”

Photo: freedigitalphotos user Salvatore Vuono

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