(Page 2 of 2)
spirulina’s long safety record as a food product, Finrow says. The door was also open to pursue spirulina as a medical food, an FDA designation for products intended for dietary management of a disease. Finrow says Lumen opted to conduct clinical trials and develop its products as drugs because the company wanted to generate data about its candidates. He adds that winning FDA approval of Lumen’s products as drugs should give patients more confidence in their therapeutic benefits.
Lumen’s pipeline includes candidates for norovirus and Clostridioides difficile infection, both of which the company aims to neutralize in the gut. Though norovirus might best be known for outbreaks that have occurred on cruise ships, Finrow says this virus is also a problem in nursing homes. There are no FDA-approved norovirus therapies or vaccines.
A number of companies are developing therapies for C. diff, notably Cambridge, MA-based Seres Therapeutics (NASDAQ: MCRB), which recently reported positive Phase 3 data for its capsules of live spores intended to treat the infection by restoring the gut microbiome to a healthy balance. Finrow acknowledges Seres’s progress, but adds that Lumen could offer a scalable alternative to the expensive process of manufacturing live biological therapeutics.
Skin diseases and respiratory conditions are next on Lumen’s list of potential applications. Finrow says they’re an extension of the company’s current research. Like the gut, the lungs and the skin are regarded by the immune system as external because all three interface with aspects of the outside world. The company hasn’t publicly disclosed which skin and lung conditions it aims to treat, but Finrow says the ones investors ask about most include wound healing and influenza.
The Lumen technology has potential applications beyond human health. The ability to make massive amounts of biologic molecules could apply to the production of microbes used in manufacturing plant-based meat alternatives, Finrow says. The technology could also be used in animal health products. Lumen isn’t pursuing those opportunities on its own, but Finrow says the company is open to talking with partners interested in exploring such applications.
Biofuel is one application the company won’t pursue. While the Lumen technology can be used to make alternative fuels, Finrow says it’s probably not economically viable. Sapphire Energy and Joule Unlimited stand as examples of startups that raised hundreds of millions of dollars to develop their synthetic biology approaches to biofuel production, only to find that plummeting oil prices made their products uncompetitive.
Lumen collaborators to date include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has also contributed funding. The company has also worked with government agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as well as academic institutions including the University of Washington, the University of Virginia, and Tufts University.
The cash infusion announced this week, a Series B round of funding, was co-led by new investor WestRiver Management and earlier investor Bioeconomy Capital. They were joined by other earlier investors Avista Development, Columbia Pacific, Lumen’s founders, and Seattle-area angel investors. The company says the new cash brings the total investment in the company to $68 million total. Finrow says the funding will support Phase 2 tests of the traveler’s diarrhea drug candidate, as well as plans to advance the C. diff and norovovirus candidates to clinical testing next year.
Photo by Lumen Bioscience
|Want more Xconomy content? Subscribe today for free newsletters, event and webinar alerts, whitepapers, podcasts, and more.|