Gilead Heightens Inflammatory Disease Focus With Second Genome Microbiome Deal

Xconomy San Francisco — 

Gilead Sciences has signed an agreement with South San Francisco biotech Second Genome to use its microbiome drug development expertise to advance the compounds it is evaluating in inflammatory disease and to identify new ones.

“There is a growing body of evidence that the microbiome plays an important role in disease progression and treatment response in inflammatory diseases,” said William Lee, Gilead’s executive vice president of research.

That evidence led Foster City, CA-based Gilead (NASDAQ: GILD) to ink a deal with Second Genome—which includes $38 million up front—to tap into its microbiome research to optimize some of its compounds in inflammatory disease and identify up to five potential new targets or drug candidates for the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) over the next four years. The microbiome—the microbes that live on and inside the human body—has drawn more attention in recent years from pharma and biotechs as a potential source of therapeutics.

To help inform how Gilead selects patients for clinical trials studying its potential treatments, Second Genome will identify biomarkers associated with indicators of therapeutic effect for up to five Gilead compounds.

Gilead will have the option to acquire the worldwide rights to those programs as well as exclusive rights to all biomarkers developed as part of the collaboration. It will also have the option to extend the collaboration for two more years. Second Genome is eligible for payments tied to each validated biomarker it delivers as well as up to about $300 million in milestone payments tied to the IBD programs and royalties on any commercialized products.

Inflammatory disease is one of Gilead’s four main areas of research, along with viral diseases, fibrotic diseases, and oncology. The clinical-stage drugs that Gilead is currently evaluating for inflammatory disease stem from a longstanding partnership with Belgian biotech Galapagos (NASDAQ: GLPG), which it doubled down on last year with a $5 billion, 10-year collaboration. That agreement gave it rights or options to six drugs in human trials plus more in preclinical testing.

Second Genome was co-founded 10 years ago by Corey Goodman, a managing partner at venture capital firm venBio and former Pfizer executive. Four years ago it raised a $51 million Series B round, led by the venture arms of Pfizer and Roche.

The company is advancing three of its own compounds. Next year Second Genome plans to ask the FDA for the OK to move its lead program, an investigational IBD treatment, into the clinic. The other two programs, in cancer and IBD, are preclinical.

Second Genome is headed by Karim Dabbagh, who was appointed president and CEO in 2018 to succeed Glenn Nedwin, who retired that year.

The Second Genome deal comes amid an intensely busy time for Gilead, which is testing its investigational antiviral drug remdesivir as a potential treatment for COVID-19. The company is also moving ahead with a $4.9 billion tie-up with cancer immunotherapy developer Forty Seven, an acquisition announced March 2.