4D pharma’s live bacteria show promise in multiple sclerosis

A UK company specialising in using live bacteria as medicine says it has had promising early-stage results in treating multiple sclerosis (MS).

4D pharma is focusing on the development of live biotherapeutics – a new field of treatment based on growing evidence that ‘friendly’ bacteria have a major role in regulating health inside the human body.

There are trillions of microbes that live in the human gut, with some species thought to play a key role in regulating the immune system and inflammation. By mapping this ‘microbiome’ (similar to how genes are mapped in a human genome) researchers such as 4D pharma hope to develop biotherapeutics which treat, or even cure, diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and asthma by restoring the right bacteria.

The Manchester-based company uses its proprietary platform MicroRx to discover novel live biotherapeutics, and has just announced early pre-clinical work which shows promise in treating MS.

Dr Alex Stevenson, 4D’s Chief Scientific Officer, commented: “These results are an exciting development in the progress of live biotherapeutics. To potentially treat a disease such as multiple sclerosis with an oral capsule of therapeutically functional bacteria would be a huge step forward.”

Dr Stevenson added that the MS data provided further validation of its MicroRx discovery platform.

The firm has already identified candidates for severe asthma, allergic asthma and RA, and continues to expand its drug development pipeline.

The UK company was established in early 2014, and is expected to commence phase I trials of its lead treatments shortly: irritable bowel syndrome treatment blautix, and its paediatric Crohn’s treatment thetanix.

A third candidate, paediatric ulcerative colitis treatment rosburix, is scheduled to entered clinical trials in the second half of 2016.

4D pharma is not the only company active in this hugely promising field, however. US-based Verdana is pursuing a similar strategy and, in January, signed a deal with pharma giant J&J to develop a new candidate for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

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