AstraZeneca and Seres investigate impact of the microbiome on cancer medication

A three-year collaboration will use Seres’ expertise on the microbiome to evaluate the potential for a combined therapy with standard pharmaceuticals

For the next three years, Seres Therapeutics and AstraZeneca will join forces for a research partnership with a new angle on cancer treatment. The collaboration will focus on advancing mechanistic understanding of the microbiome in augmenting the efficacy of cancer immunotherapy, including potential synergy with AstraZeneca compounds.

Jean-Charles Soria, Senior VP of Research & Development Oncology at AstraZeneca, said: “Despite progress in the field of immunotherapy, we are only at the tip of the iceberg. Too many patients are still unable to benefit from existing therapies, so we must continue following the science in pursuit of new and innovative solutions.”

Preclinical and early clinical evidence suggests that the composition of the gastrointestinal microbiome impacts clinical response to checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapy and supports the hypothesis that modification of the microbiome may improve outcomes.

These data provide strong support for continued research to further understand the microbiome as a predictor of response to checkpoint inhibitors and to elucidate the potential of microbiome therapeutics to augment immunotherapy.

On the agenda

Under the collaboration, research will evaluate microbiome-based approaches as a predictor for which patients may respond best to certain cancer immunotherapies. Additionally, SER-401, an investigational microbiome therapeutic, may be studied in combination with AstraZeneca compounds targeting various cancers.

The collaboration will apply Seres’ microbiome drug discovery and manufacturing knowledge with AstraZeneca’s oncology experience. This combined expertise will be used to evaluate the potential for microbiome therapy to improve clinical response when used in conjunction with adjunctive pharmaceutical approaches.

Commenting on the collaboration Soria said: “Our new collaboration with Seres Therapeutics represents an important opportunity to advance our understanding of the relationship between the microbiome and the immune system’s ability to respond to cancer therapy,”

Under the terms of the exclusive collaboration, AstraZeneca headquartered in Cambridge, UK, will provide Seres with US$20 million in three equal instalments over two years, with the first payment due at the start of the agreement.

AstraZeneca will also reimburse US-based Seres for research activity related to the collaboration. Seres will maintain rights to oncology targeted microbiome therapeutic candidates, and AstraZeneca will obtain the option to negotiate for rights to those programmes and other inventions arising out of the collaboration.