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Microbiome Way

Pharmaceutical companies are increasingly interested in the microbiome as a way to understand and treat disease, writes Sara Reardon at Nature News.

Pfizer, she notes, recently announced plans to team up with Second Genome to study the microbiomes of some 900 people with and without metabolic disorders; Enterome recently raised $13.8 million to develop gut bacteria-based diagnostic tests for both inflammatory and liver diseases; and Microbiome Therapeutics has a clinical trial underway to examine two molecules that select for good gut bacteria and may enable people with diabetes to better take up insulin.

"Experts predict that the next few months will see a boom in such partnerships and investments, and that new microbiome-derived drugs and therapies will come to market within a few years," Reardon adds.

However, she says that the field faces a number of challenges, particularly uncertain regulatory pathways for genetically modified bacteria and intellectual property rights for naturally occuring bacteria.

Still, investors "all want a microbiome company in their portfolio," Pierre Belichard, the chief executive of Enterome, tells her.