As part of the tie-up, 4D pharma will start a clinical trial this year with BAVENCIO, a drug for advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma developed by Merck and Pfizer, in combination with UK group’s MRx0518.
"With this second clinical trial collaboration for MRx0518 with a leading immune checkpoint inhibitor, 4D is able to evaluate MRx0518 in a new combination and earlier treatment setting,” said 4D chief executive Duncan Peyton.
MRx0518 has already generated “promising” early clinical data in harness with blockbuster cancer drug Keytruda, while its potential is also being assessed as a single therapy.
CEO Peyton said the latest collaboration would allow its scientists “to continue to build a broad understanding of the safety and efficacy of MRx0518 across a range of solid tumours and stages of the disease”.
He added: "The combination of MRx0518 with BAVENCIO has the potential to further enhance the positive clinical outcomes achieved by BAVENCIO for the significant number of patients in this treatment setting."
Working in the emerging area of the human microbiome (the bacteria that reside mainly in the gut), 4D has developed Live Biotherapeutics — products that contain live organisms such as human commensal bacteria.
The approach focuses on single strains to assess specific mechanisms of action targeting a defined disease pathway.
Even variations between different strains of bacteria of the same species are assessed and exploited.
Peyton says superficially identical bacteria can sometimes differ up to 20% in their gene content, and therefore may have highly different functional profiles.
Toxicity has always been a major impediment to the success of new drugs.
In developing its Live Biotherapeutics, 4D has isolated bacteria from healthy human donors which are expected to have “highly attractive safety profiles”.