The funding round was led by Tencent. Other investors – University of Minnesota, Navian Investments, Colorcon Ventures, Touchdown Ventures, DCVC bio, 5AM Ventures, Alta Partners and Alexandria Venture Investments —also participated in the round.
Novome was founded in 2016 with the mission to use synthetic biology tools to harness the power of gut microbes. The biotech views gut microbes as “living pharmacies,” and its platform enables the controlled grafting of GEMMs into the gut to deliver therapies, Novome CEO Blake Wise said in an interview.
The company will use its Series B funds to advance clinical testing of its lead candidate, NOV-001. Through this GEMM, Novome takes bacteria found in the gut and engineers them to break down oxalate, a naturally occurring metabolite that forms kidney stones. The metabolite is common in people’s diets—oxalate-rich foods include spinach, chocolate, beets, peanuts, and sweet potatoes.
“We just took the most common bacteria that are in the gut and then gave them the ability to break down this thing that we often consume in our diet,” Wise said.
In November Novome reported positive results from the Phase 1 trial of NOV-001. The company said the trial demonstrated the therapy’s ability to safely treat the human gut with a genetically modified microbe and control its abundance through once-daily dosing of porphyrin, a prebiotic polysaccharide.
The ongoing Phase 2a trial for NOV-001 included patients with intestinal hyperoxaluria, which is a common complication that can occur as a result of an underlying gastrointestinal disorder, such as irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease. People with intestinal hyperoxaluria absorb more oxalate and therefore excrete more oxalate in their urine.
The trial measured NOV-001’s ability to reduce the level of oxalate excretion in participants’ urine. High levels of oxalate in the urine put a patient at risk for developing kidney stones, according to Wise.
In addition to clinical research for its lead candidate, Novome will also deploy a “large, significant portion” of its Series B funds to further develop multiple preclinical GEMM candidates for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease, Wise said. The biotech plans to offer multiple candidates over the next few years, including ones that are wholly owned by Novome and those that are part of Genentech cooperation that biotechnologies announced last year.
Within the partnership, Novome is responsible for the engineering and development of bacterial strains that will express therapeutically relevant proteins of interest for the targeted development of drug candidates for inflammatory bowel disease. Genentech will take over when it comes time for clinical development and commercialization, Wise said. Novome received an upfront payment of $15 million for the deal, as well as the option to receive up to $590 million in additional payments.
Novome is the only biotech that takes bacteria that are naturally abundant in the human gut and genetically engineers them to deliver drugs, Wise claims.
Many companies are pursuing engineered cell therapy with types of human cells (such as immune cells or stem cells), such as Kite, Juno and Ruby. But Wise maintains that Novome is the only company pursuing engineered cell therapy with microbes to treat chronic diseases.
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