Ferring join Intralytix and the Eliava Foundation in vaginal microbiome R&D pact

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Ferring Pharmaceuticals, the Eliava Foundation and Intralytix are to form a research collaboration that focuses on developing bacteriophage-based products, which target the vaginal microbiome.

The agreement looks to expand on the development of microbiome- and bacteriophage-based technologies to address challenges in reproductive medicine and women’s health.

“Ferring will continue to provide this therapy area expertise to the extended collaboration with the ultimate aim of accelerating the development of microbiome- and bacteriophage-based technologies to address unmet medical needs in reproductive medicine and women’s health,”s​aid a spokesperson for Ferring Pharmaceuticals.  

“Rapidly evolving science is enabling us to uncover the central role that the microbiome plays in human health and disease. In reproductive medicine and women’s health, we are beginning to understand the importance of the vaginal microbiome during pregnancy, birth and in fertility.”

The vaginal microbiome is a relatively new research area in genomics that like the gut, skin and oral cavity, consist of a microbiome that is as diverse and multifunctional as the other populations.

The most up-to date research identifies bacterial communities dominated by one of four Lactobacillus​ strains.

However, with the composition and stability of the vaginal microbiome varying by race, age and even within an individual, researchers are struggling to define what is “healthy”​ or “normal”.

In particular, vaginal microbiomes vary in Lactobacillus​ numbers and other anaerobic bacteria but bacterial communities appear to always include genera members known to produce lactic acid.

Bacteriophage expertise

Intralytix, a privately held company based in Baltimore, US primarily work in developing bacteriophage technology.

“Our primary expertise is bacteriophages (phages) and bacteriophage-based technologies,”​ explained Dr Alexander Sulakvelidze, executive vice-president and chief scientific officer at Intralytix.

“Experts in the vaginal microbiome have identified certain key bacteria that play role in the development / manifestation of various women's health – associated complications. 

“Our goal is to use our phage technology, in collaboration with Ferring Pharmaceuticals and Eliava Foundation, to help manage those through modulation of the vaginal microbiome.”

Intralytix already have an existing agreement with Ferring formed in January 2017 that is developing and commercialising bacteriophage-based treatments for conditions linked to microbiome dysbiosis of pathogenic bacteria.

The deal extends a prior agreement formed between the two partners in 2015 that looked to develop a set of bacteriophages designed to treat inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

“One of the most exciting things about our phage technology is that phages could be used to gently fine-tune microbiome (including vaginal, but not only vaginal; e.g., gastrointestinal tract) for various health benefits,”​ said Dr Sulakvelidze.

“I anticipate that some of those phage-based, microbiome-modulating products will be developed and marketed as drugs; some others could be used as dietary supplements / probiotics.”

‘Different bacteriophages approaches’

Commenting on the latest collaboration, Mzia Kutateladze, president of the Eliava Foundation and director of the Eliava Institute of Bacteriophages, Microbiology and Virology (IBMV) added, “We look forward to joining efforts with Intralytix and Ferring to advance this technology under Western medical standards.

“We prepare phage preparations against infections of various systems, e.g. digestive, urinary-tract, gynaecologic diseases, respiratory tract and others.

“Together with our partners we will be able to contribute into woman’s healthcare, fight bacterial infections with specific alterations in the vaginal microbiome.

“During the last couple of years, a lot of activity with phage therapy development in many countries is evident

“My opinion is it is legitimate to have different approaches with bacteriophages. I think development of a specific phage as a pharmaceutical agent or drug is the most important and useful approach.”

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