Exponential growth on the cards for the microbiome industry

The microbiome market could be as big as biotech in the next 20 years, reports Dr Isabelle de Cremoux, CEO and Managing Partner, Seventure Partners

Isabelle de Cremoux

The microbiome — 100 trillion micro-organisms living in and on the body — is being shown to have a major impact on disease and health, which is opening up an exciting new area for therapeutics.

It is predicted that, by 2030, the market value for microbiome-derived medicines will reach $658 million.

The microbiome has emerged as a critical area of research for pharmaceutical companies and the implication of the microbiome in human health is huge, with prospects including novel therapeutics and clinical assays. This has led to an increased research and development (R&D) focus — and large investments — by academia, industry and governments worldwide in this area.

For example, in 2016, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy announced The National Microbiome Initiative, which saw federal agencies earmarking more than $121 million for interdisciplinary R&D. Additional stakeholders backed the move, committing more than $400 million in financial and in-kind contributions.

The realisation of the microbe’s importance has triggered an important change in R&D strategies. Whereas healthcare innovation has traditionally focused on human cells and genetics, there has been significantly more research into microbes during the past decade, with an uplift in both peer-reviewed publications and clinical trials in the area. This elevation is similar to that seen in the early days of the biotech revolution and predicts growth opportunities in diagnostics, disease prevention, therapies and products.

With the rise of type 2 diabetes, therapeutics for metabolic disorders will become a strong growth market for microbiome-based approaches

There has been a marked increase in innovative companies seeking funding, with venture capitalists (VCs) and strategic investors providing the largest sources of capital. For example, earlier this year, Second Genome Inc. secured financing of $42.6 million from the venture arms of two drug companies. It hopes to use the funds to explore and unlock the microbiome’s full potential.

A number of funding resources have become available to microbiome-focused companies, with many VCs and pharmaceutical venture arms looking to invest in the area.

Anticipating this growth opportunity and the need for capital, in 2014 Seventure Partners launched Health for Life Capital, the first investment vehicle in the world to focus on the microbiome revolution in the fields of health, connected health, nutrition and the microbiome, helping companies such as Enterome to advance the development of its lead drug candidate for inflammatory bowel diseases.

The €160 million fund closed in December 2015, with Novartis participating as a strategic investor.

We have been approached by more than 140 microbiome companies during the last 2 years and have built a portfolio comprising immunology, gastrointestinal, metabolic and infection companies, with strong investment growth in the areas of CNS and dermatology.

We believe that with the rise of type 2 diabetes and large target patient populations, therapeutics for metabolic disorders will become a strong growth market for microbiome-based approaches. Based on our experience to date, if potential is realised, and significant breakthroughs are made in the field, the microbiome market could be as big as biotech in the next 20 years.