The funding round builds on an existing agreement formed in January this year, where the two firms worked on identifying candidates from a panel of Staphylococcus epidermidis strains to tackle skin conditions and diseases.
“Leaps by Bayer is investing in transformative technologies with the ability to move the paradigm from treatment to cure,” explains Jürgen Eckhardt, head of Leaps by Bayer.
“The human microbiome is a universe within and on our bodies that is currently poorly understood but provides opportunities for breakthroughs in the broader healthcare sector.
“Azitra’s cutting edge microbiome technology platform has the potential to address multiple issues of the human skin.”
Funding raised from this latest round, which included existing investors, Bios Partners and Connecticut Innovations, will be used to further leverage Azitra’s technology platform co-developed by Yale University and the Jackson Laboratory based in California.
Azitra’s technology is based on a proprietary strain of Staphylococcus epidermidis, where its direct application is thought to improve skin appearance, hydration, and healing.
The US-based firm believe these bacteria can be genetically engineered to prove effective in addressing such conditions as ichthyosis vulgaris and Netherton syndrome, which occur due to missing skin proteins.
“We have engineered commensal skin bacteria to deliver these missing, critical proteins directly to the target through the stratum corneum of the skin, resolving the underlying disease cause and returning the microbiome to a more normal state,” says Azritra on its website.
“This approach represents a major platform technology adaptable to the expression of different proteins that target multiple diseases and skin care needs.”
Leaps made by Bayer
Leaps by Bayer currently boasts an investment portfolio of over 30 companies, all working on technologies to address challenges such as regenerating lost tissue function and preventing or curing cancer amongst others.
Its latest investments include €201m ($239m) in Series D financing in September to support the clinical activities of biotechnology firm Recursion.
The funding will also go towards developing its drug discovery process including the generation of relatable datasets, target discovery, digital chemistry, predictive ADME/T and the digitization of in vivo studies.
Bayer’s agreement with Azritra represents a foray into the use of LBPs and the microbiome that help protect the skin and support its recovery.
More specifically, the partnership will focus on Azitra’s Staphylococcus epidermidis strains and their potential as a main bioactive component in a new range of Bayer-developed skincare products under a future License Agreement.
Possible areas of application include medicated skin care products for sensitive, eczema-prone skin as well as therapeutic products for skin diseases such as atopic dermatitis.
Skin microbiome a ‘promising platform’
“The skin microbiome offers a promising platform for the development and commercialisation of natural skin care products more and more people are looking for,” said Heiko Schipper, member of Bayer’s management board and president of Bayer Consumer Health, back in January.
“As Bayer is committed to the development of science-based consumer health products through our own research as well as external partnerships, we’re delighted to collaborate with Azitra.
“The company has already demonstrated tolerability of a selected Staphylococcus epidermidis strain in healthy volunteers and is now planning to start the clinical demonstration of efficacy.”
Speaking about the latest B round of financing, Richard Andrews, President and Chief Executive Officer of Azitra says,“Azitra is excited to continue our Bayer partnership with this investment from Leaps by Bayer to advance our patented microbiome technology and demonstrate its potential for LBPs and the consumer market.
“Bayer will provide valuable strategic insights for our consumer product development while we continue to move our therapeutic candidates into clinical testing for dermatologic indications.”