Diagnostics and Treatments for the Microbiome

Aug 16, 2019 | Blog


Issue #37. Friday, August 16

Hello Everyone,

For this edition of the Zoic newsletter, we will be covering recent deals in our focus areas, including immuno-oncology, several advancements in the study of the gut microbiome, liquid biopsy and brain stimulation.

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Earlier diagnostics and better-derived treatments that can target the microbiome

We have previously featured immuno-oncology as one of the few cases of pharmaceutical technology that fit our thesis, mainly due to the shorter potential timeframes for an exit. A recent acquisition further reinforces this point. A major pharmaceutical company acquired another early-stage immuno-oncology platform with two notable points. The first is that this was acquired before the technology has even reached human trials, even earlier than previous examples and, in fact, for any pharmaceutical or even medical device. The second is that this acquisition will complement the acquirer’s existing oncology platforms.
We have featured many advancements in our knowledge of links between the gut microbiome and a wide variety of conditions. This is why we the field of microbiome diagnostics and derived therapies is very interesting for us. Another link was recently shown between the bacteria in the gut and motor neuron conditions. This reinforces previous links to neural and even brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Just like other examples, this finding will lead to better, earlier diagnostics and better-derived treatments that can target the microbiome.
Another recent finding seems to be a more direct link between the microbiome and obesity. However, the link may be more complex than at a first glance. The link seems to indicate that changes in the gut microbiome can actually affect genes responsible for producing immune system antibodies, which can subsequently affect how fats are processed. The research is in animals so far but shows how interconnected the gut bacteria is into our systems.

The field of liquid biopsies, that of diagnosing diseases and conditions early with only blood samples, continues to show growth and funding. Freenome, a company in this space, recently raised a substantial amount. This allows the company to build on the promising results it has shown already in diagnosing cancer early and proceed with validation studies. The investors show the breadth of interest in this field, as they span finance partners, VC funds and health providers/insurers.

Lastly, another recent development in the brain stimulation space. A company in the UK startup has also raised money for a non-invasive headset that aims to treat depression through stimulation. This follows previous examples of using directed energy to treat mental conditions but also builds upon the growing number of home-use devices for this specific use.
Zoic News

Our portfolio company, ODS Medical Inc., has recently announced that their Sentry™ System prototype for real-time Raman spectroscopy has received Health Canada testing authorization for brain cancer surgeries. With this authorization, ODS Medical will be able to launch a new clinical study in brain cancer surgeries at The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital). Read More

 What We’re Reading

Human microbiome churns out thousands of tiny novel proteins
SoftBank announces AI-focused second $108 billion Vision Fund with LPs including Microsoft, Apple, and Foxconn
Why don’t digital health investors finance solutions to tough medical issues?
A cancer-fighting venture-capital fund that makes its investors feel good

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