Symbiotix Biotherapies has gained access to Harvard University material that could help it develop treatments for autoimmune and inflammatory diseases like multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel diseases.
It obtained access to the intellectual property, much of which deals with gut bacteria, under a licensing agreement with Harvard. Intellectual property typically includes ideas, innovations and processes that have obtained legal protection for their originality.
Symbiotix develops therapies based on the human microbiome, or composition of bacteria in the gut and elsewhere. The intellectual property at Harvard that it gained access to includes “compositions and methods,” it said.
Dr. Dennis Kasper, a professor of medicine, microbiology and immunobiology at Harvard Medical School, led the team that developed the intellectual property. He was also the scientific co-founder of Symbiotix.
Drawing on discoveries that Kasper made earlier at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Symbiotix developed Reglemers, a new class of molecular therapies that regulate the activity of immune T-cells. They constitute a new treatment approach to autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.
“We are extraordinarily pleased to expand our extensive intellectual property portfolio with this license agreement,” Dr. Nader Yaghoubi, the president and chief executive officer of Symbiotix, said in a press release.
“Symbiotix has steadily built the leading intellectual property portfolio in the microbiome sector, which now includes license agreements with four academic institutions, and includes issued composition-of-matter patents protecting our lead program,” he said.
Kasper’s work has focused on obtaining a better understanding of the connections between gut microbiota and the immune system by studying an important intestinal bacteria called Bacteroides fragilis.
He discovered capsular polysaccharides on the organism’s surface that are essential to its virulence. His team discovered that single strains of Bacteroides fragilis produce multiple polysaccharides, and that the immune system can recognize some.
The team believes that a polysaccharide called PSA plays an important role in shaping immune system development. It also regulates the immune system and fights inflammation.
A key finding is that It stimulates the production of IL-10, a molecule that protects against inflammatory bowel disease and an animal model of multiple sclerosis known as experimental autoimmune encephalitis.
Kasper’s studies on bacterial–immune system interactions have opened new fields of research on the role of microbial molecules in shaping immune system development and have led to scientists searching for new therapies.