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IBD therapeutic program launched at BIO

Microba, Australia’s leading biotech company in microbiome science and testing, launched a research and development (R&D) program today (3 JUN BRIS time) at BIO in Philadelphia focused on the prevalent and incurable Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).

The program – launched by Queensland Minister for Innovation and Tourism Industry Development, The Honourable Kate Jones – will develop gut microbiome derived therapeutics for IBD.

Microba CEO Blake Wills said that improved therapies for the long-term management of IBD were crucial and a currently unmet clinical need, with Australia having one of the highest incidences of IBD worldwide, affecting 1 in every 250 Australians, equating to over 80,000 people.

Using their world-leading DNA sequencing platform, Microba has identified distinct differences in the gut microbiome of healthy individuals and those with IBD. These results give invaluable insights into the role of bacteria in disease progression and provide unique opportunities for the development of new therapeutics and diagnostic methods. Using deep learning artificial intelligence Microba is now able to predict IBD in patients from microbiome data alone with 86% accuracy.

Microba Co-Founder Prof Gene Tyson said that the gut microbiome held significant promise for the identification for novel therapeutics to treat Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

“Using our advanced DNA sequencing approach, we are able to discover novel species which we believe are playing a role in IBD,” he said.

CEO Blake Wills said “Microba is making a significant commitment to IBD. We are looking to build on the brilliant work done by Crohn’s & Colitis Australia to build awareness and improve treatment.

“World IBD Day and IBD Awareness Month has just concluded, and at Microba we have supported this through donating a portion of kit sales to the foundation during the month of May.

“Microba has a genuine opportunity to use cutting edge science, developed at the University of Queensland, to unlock new treatments in IBD. Our initial data gives us confidence we will be successful in this pursuit.”

Mr Wills explained that Microba had identified 21 bacterial species commonly found in healthy individuals but not detected in Crohn’s, and 20 in Ulcerative Colitis.

Microba researchers are now isolating these bacteria to study their role in the development of IBD and their potential therapeutic benefit. Initial screens have demonstrated that some of these bacteria show anti-inflammatory activity, thereby potentially promoting immune homeostasis and tolerance. The goal of this investigation is to identify bacteria, or by-products of these bacteria, that can be developed as a therapeutic to rapidly induce and maintain remission.

Minister for Innovation Kate Jones said this was another feather-in-the-cap for Queensland medical R&D.

“I’m pleased to say that it was through a $100,000 Advance Queensland Fellowship that allowed Microba co-founder and lead bio-informatician Dr David Wood to set up the company,” Ms Jones said.

“This key investment had led to the establishment of this exciting start-up, which has gone from strength-to-strength over the past 18 months to the stage where it is now looking to seriously tackle IBD.

“It illustrates exactly what the Palaszczuk Government has set out to achieve through our $650 million Advance Queensland initiative, with the aim of translating research into commercial outcomes.”

Ms Jones is a leading a delegation of over 100 Queensland business and research leaders to BIO 2019.

Mr Wills said that it was Microba’s vision to eventually extend the R&D programs such as this to other disease states.

“It is our hope that in the future we can contribute to managing a broad range of disease states, whether it be mental conditions or other well-known disease states,” he said.