30 Apr 2018 --- Belgian microbiome company A-Mansia Biotech has raised €13 million in first close Series A financing, pushing forward development of one their unique discoveries – the most abundant bacterial species of the gut microbiome – Akkermansia muciniphila (A. muciniphila) bacterium. The company is developing health products from the bacterium, which has been proven in laboratory conditions to prevent the development of disorders induced by a high-fat diet, i.e. cholesterol and weight-gain.
“We were very happy with the speed that we reached the first close with. It's a very good achievement for us to reach after a year and it shows that there is trust in our project, which is really encouraging. It is the start of further development for the company,” Jean-Christophe Malrieu, CEO of A-Mansia tells NutritionInsight.
The financing is being led by Seventure Partners, as part of their key microbiome fund, known as Health for Life Capital. “We will be active in helping guide A-Mansia to reach its goals of marketing a dietary supplement product, and testing its lead drug candidate in the clinic,” says Isabelle de Cremoux, CEO and Managing Partner of Seventure Partners.
Proceeds of this Series A financing will be used to progress the development of a proprietary nutritional supplement based on A. muciniphila through to commercial launch. Malrieu states that the consumer product should hit the market in three years time.
Subjects with an increased cardio-metabolic risk (insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, high blood cholesterol and visceral fat accumulation) are characterized by lower A. muciniphila abundance in the gut, states the company. It is therefore hoped that this supplement could be key to maintaining health and immunity, normal glycaemia, normal blood cholesterol levels and avoiding excessive weight gain. Funds will also be applied to developing a pharmaceutical research pipeline based on active components isolated from A. muciniphila.
A. muciniphila bacteria’s promise
The A. muciniphila strand is “new,” Malrieu explains, as it was discovered ten years ago by the founders of the company but it not on the market as of yet. In this way, A-Mansia has a “VIP access for using it, in whatever form, and in as well as growing it.”
The two founders – Professor Willem M. de Vos from Wageningen University (The Netherlands) and Professor Patrice D. Cani from the University of Louvain (UCL, Belgium) – isolated the A. muciniphila in 2004 at Wageningen University, and went on to begin A-Mansia in 2016.
A. muciniphila is one of the most abundant species found in the gut microbiota, the population of microorganisms housed in the gastrointestinal tract. The species is located in a particular niche: the mucus layer covering the intestinal epithelium. This location allows this bacterium to establish a “close cross-talk with the host.” Due to these interactions with the host’s immune and metabolic functions, it is said that A. muciniphila can act as the gatekeeper of the intestinal barrier.
During ten years of collaborative research, the founders were able to demonstrate that daily administration of live A. muciniphila can improve metabolic disorders and inflammatory conditions in mice fed with a high-fat diet. Pasteurised A. muciniphila exhibited the same, or greater, beneficial effects and completely prevented the development of disorders induced by a high-fat diet in the preclinical model.
The first human exploratory study of A. muciniphila in volunteers is currently ongoing in University of Louvain’s hospital (Cliniques Universitaires Saint-Luc, Brussels). Interim results confirm that it is safe and well tolerated. In parallel research, the team has identified active components isolated from the bacteria are able to replicate the beneficial properties associated with administration of the whole bacterium.
Scientific founder, Professor Patrice D. Cani, adds, “This is a unique opportunity to progress the output from the scientific discoveries made at University of Louvain (UCL) and Wageningen University’s laboratories into products available to everyone.”
The product seeks to join a busy and growing market of gut health products, that utilize expanding research, understanding and investment on the topic.
Furthermore, alongside Seventure Partners, the leading specialist in microbiome venture investing, other venture investors included Fonds Vives II (University of Louvain, UCL), the SRIW Life Sciences and Nivelinvest, as well as historical supporter of the research, private investor Mr. Pierre Drion. A-Mansia has also secured €3 million in non-dilutive funding from the Walloon regional government.
By Laxmi Haigh
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