Some of the medical conditions that compromise health are rooted in the trillions of microbes that occupy the human body. Science is still in the early stages of understanding the role that communities of microbes have in disease. But one new biotech startup, Axial Biotherapeutics, aims to research the role that microbes have in brain disorders. The new company, based in Boston, has raised $19 million in a Series A round of funding to support that work.
The underlying research for Axial traces its origins to research at the California Institute of Technology and the work of microbiology professor Sarkis Mazmanian, according to Xconomy. Mazmanian’s own research has touched on the link between gut bacteria and autism. Autism and Parkinson’s disease are among the conditions that Axial aims to treat. The company is researching the network that links signals between microbes in the human gut with the brain, a connection that it calls the “gut-brain axis.” A drug that adjust or regulate those signals could have an impact on various diseases, Xconomy explains.
Axial landed investment heavyweights to back the venture. Longwood Fund and Domain Associates led the Series A investment. Kairos Ventures, Heritage Medical Systems, and high net worth individuals in Southern California also joined the round, according to Endpoints. With the capital infusion, David Donabedian, a partner at Longwood, is taking the helm of Axial as its CEO. He told Xconomy that Axial could take many different approaches to affecting the body’s microbiome, including development of therapeutic bacteria.
Axial is not the only company pursuing therapies that affect the human microbiome. New York-based biotech Kallyope launched last year based on research from Columbia University, is also researching the gut-brain axis, Endpoints noted. Others pursuing microbiome-based therapies include Vedanta, Synlogic, Seres, and Second Genome. Axial aims to bring its first microbiome candidate into clinical trials within the next two years. Within that time frame, there’s a lot that can happen in microbial research.
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