Seattle, WA—January 5, 2018—Lumen Bioscience, a Seattle company developing novel biologics on its proprietary platform, announced today it has been awarded a grant by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support early-stage development of ultra-low-cost, easily delivered therapeutics to protect developing world infants from intestinal pathogens.
Almost 800,000 children under 5 die every year from diarrheal diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Recent research has shown that, even when not fatal, colonization of the gut by pathogenic bacteria can result in a skewed microbiome and has been linked to a variety of long-term health impacts, including malnutrition and weakened immune responses to vaccines for other childhood diseases. Natural colostrum, a preliminary form of human breast milk, contributes to human infant health in part by providing antimicrobial substances including antibodies that protect against common intestinal pathogens, but this protection is often insufficient in the developing world.
In this new research supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Lumen is collaborating with Dr. Chuck Shoemaker’s lab at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University—located west of Boston—which has developed high-quality antibodies that neutralize bacterial toxins or interfere with the infectivity of pathogenic bacteria.
“Our simple, small antibodies have been shown to be highly potent in protecting cells from pathogens in tests conducted in our lab,” said Shoemaker. “Producing and then delivering these antibodies to the intestines through a safe and efficient vehicle could protect animals and people from intestinal pathogens that cause diarrheal and other diseases.”
These antibodies will be produced and delivered using Lumen’s unique spirulina production platform at a fraction of the cost of traditional antibody platforms. The Gates Foundation’s eventual goal is to develop an exceptionally low-cost, orally delivered therapeutic tonic that mimics the antimicrobial properties of natural human breast milk.
“We are very pleased and grateful that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recognized the potential for our spirulina-based biotechnology platform to make an important contribution to world health, and we are very excited to be working with such high-caliber researchers at Tufts University,” said Lumen CEO and co-founder Brian Finrow. Finrow also pointed to additional medical benefits of this new research. “These initial studies will also lead to development of new therapeutics from our platform for a variety of gastrointestinal diseases,” he added, “an area vastly underserved, especially in areas like this where production and delivery costs are an issue.” The global market for human gastrointestinal drugs is forecast to reach $48.4 million by 2022, according to BGI Research.