Clinical OMICS

JUL-AUG 2019

Healthcare magazine for research scientists, labs, pathologists, hospitals, cancer centers, physicians and biopharma companies providing news articles, expert interviews and videos about molecular diagnostics in precision medicine

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Page 16 of 51 July/August 2019 Clinical OMICs 15 CDI can result in fever, nausea, abdominal pain, and life-threatening diarrhea. Normally a side effect of taking antibiotics, CDI is the leading hospital-ac- quired infection in the United States and, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an urgent public health threat. Antibiotic treatment is not very effective, and recurrent infections occur frequently. Through his work at OpenBiome, Smith began to see other limitations and risks present in FMT technology such as the laborious colonoscopy delivery. These problems motivated Smith to launch Finch Therapeutics, which has been active since 2016. Smith said the company wants to "build a toolkit for engineering the microbiome." But for the moment, the company's focus is to develop an alternative to FMT. Rather than undergo FMT, patients could simply swallow a pill full of lyophilized bacteria. The company is currently using this method to target CDI and ulcerative colitis, a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). So, how did Finch find a way to turn a fecal sample into a pill? The company looked to work that had been carried out at the University of Minnesota by Alexan- der Khoruts, M.D., professor of medicine, and Michael J. Sadowsky, Ph.D., a profes- sor in the department of microbiology and immunology and director of the Bio- Technology Institute. Finch licensed intellec- tual property they devel- oped that uses lyophilization, a freeze-drying process, to create a shelf-stable microbial community that can be delivered in an oral capsule. The pill has an enteric coating around it so that it releases its contents after pas- sage through the stomach, in the intestinal tract. The bacte- ria inside the pill are alive but metabolically inactive. They regain their active state when water is added, upon arrival in the gut. To derive products from fecal donors, Finch makes use of what it calls the Full-Spectrum Microbiota (FSM) platform. Finch is also looking forward to developing more defined products through its Rationally Selected Microbiota (RSM) platform, which is designed to identify the key microbes driving patient outcomes. RSM can sift through FSM data obtained from patients that have gone into remis- sion. Once the key microbes are known, they can be grown and produced on a large scale, allowing patients to be treated with- out having to resort to donor material. Both the FSM and RSM approaches, the company hopes, will make significant changes to the landscape of FMT. Alexander Mikhailov / iStock / Getty Images Mark Smith, founder, OpenBiome (continued on next page)

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