Seattle, WA—June 13, 2018—Lumen Bioscience, a Seattle company developing novel biologics on its proprietary platform, announced today that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has tripled its funding commitment for Lumen’s ultra-low-cost antibody therapeutics program.
The foundation-funded project is researching antibody-based medicines to protect developing world infants from intestinal pathogens. The increase was prompted by encouraging early, positive results from the initial proof-of-concept phase of the program, which was announced in January. The new funding will go toward producing additional antibodies that block or limit the growth of pathogenic bacteria, and toward supporting work with additional research organizations in the US and Europe. These antibodies will be further optimized for Lumen’s proprietary spirulina production and delivery technology, and produced at a fraction of the cost of traditional antibody platforms.
"We are very appreciative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s vote of confidence in our research progress and in the utilization of Lumen’s unique biotech platform’s ability to provide new therapeutics at much lower cost than traditional methods," said Brian Finrow, Lumen CEO and co-founder. "The new funds will allow us to test these antibodies in a broader range of disease models and to refine antibody expression inside our spirulina platform, which can ultimately provide much-needed therapeutics for this unmet global need."
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. Breast milk, particularly its natural colostrum form secreted immediately after birth, contributes to infant health by providing antimicrobial substances such as antibodies that protect against common intestinal pathogens. However, this protection is often overwhelmed in the developing world, where malnutrition is common and newborns encounter far more infective bacteria and viruses.
Lumen’s spirulina production and delivery technology has been garnering broader recognition for its potential for addressing unmet needs in human and animal health. In May, Lumen announced a grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue development of its malaria vaccine, and Lumen recently announced a grant from the Department of Agriculture to support development of an oral vaccine against IHNV for farmed trout and salmon, in each case leveraging the same proprietary spirulina technology platform.
The global market for human gastrointestinal drugs is forecast to reach $48.4 billion by 2022, according to GBI Research.