Microba launches new IBD R&D program

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Australian company Microba has launched an R&D program at BIO in Philadelphia focused on the prevalent and incurable Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).

The program – launched by Queensland Minister for Innovation and Tourism Industry Development, Kate Jones – will develop gut microbiome derived therapeutics for IBD.

Microba CEO Blake Wills said improved therapies for the long-term management of IBD were crucial and a currently unmet clinical need, with Australia having one of the highest incidences of IBD worldwide, affecting 1 in every 250 Australians. This equates to over 80,000 people.

Microba has used its DNA sequencing platform to identify distinct differences in the gut microbiome of healthy individuals and those with IBD.

"These results give invaluable insights into the role of bacteria in disease progression and provide unique opportunities for the development of new therapeutics and diagnostic methods. Using deep learning artificial intelligence Microba is now able to predict IBD in patients from microbiome data alone with 86% accuracy," said the company.

Microba co-founder Professor Gene Tyson said the gut microbiome held significant promise for the identification for novel therapeutics to treat IBD.

“Using our advanced DNA sequencing approach, we are able to discover novel species which we believe are playing a role in IBD,” he said.

CEO Blake Wills continued, “Microba is making a significant commitment to IBD. We are looking to build on the brilliant work done by Crohn’s & Colitis Australia to build awareness and improve treatment.

“World IBD Day and IBD Awareness Month has just concluded, and at Microba we have supported this through donating a portion of kit sales to the foundation during the month of May.

Microba has a genuine opportunity to use cutting edge science, developed at the University of Queensland, to unlock new treatments in IBD. Our initial data gives us confidence we will be successful in this pursuit.”

Mr Wills explained the company had identified 21 bacterial species commonly found in healthy individuals, but not detected in Crohn’s, and 20 in Ulcerative Colitis.

Microba researchers are now isolating these bacteria to study their role in the development of IBD and their potential therapeutic benefit. Initial screens have demonstrated that some of these bacteria show anti-inflammatory activity, thereby potentially promoting immune homeostasis and tolerance. The goal of this investigation is to identify bacteria, or by-products of these bacteria, that can be developed as a therapeutic to rapidly induce and maintain remission.