LUCA Biologics, a biotechnology company co-founded by Dr. Jacques Ravel, announced today it will develop live biotherapeutics for widespread, unmet medical needs in women's health. Ravel will serve as LUCA's Chief Scientist.
The company's first therapeutic targets urinary tract infection (UTI), estimated by the World Health Organization to impact half of women globally, and is the most common bacterial infection in the United States. FDA trials are anticipated to be led by Harvard Medical School faculty and conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital. Patient recruitment will begin this fall.
Antibiotics are currently the only frontline treatment despite patient side effects, failure to prevent recurrence, and the alarming rise in antibiotic resistance. Persistent, prophylactic antibiotic use has both contributed to the increase in causative pathogen resistance and been linked to collateral damage in the gut and vaginal microbiome. The FDA has also actively advised against the use of several antibiotics for community-acquired UTI, leaving patients with few viable options.
Ravel's research is foundational to the current understanding of the vaginal microbiome and how microbes may prevent or treat pervasive conditions in gynecology, urology, infectious disease, and reproductive medicine.
There is an urgent need for innovation in women's health. While our research started with metagenomic sequencing to generate large comparative data sets, we can now translate our findings into safe and effective treatments for widespread conditions that stigmatize and devastate millions of women each year."
Dr. Jacques Ravel, Leading Scientist, NIH's Human Microbiome Project
With a strain bank and gene catalogue isolated over 15 years from longitudinal, Gates Foundation and NIH-funded research, the company has built a metagenomic and metatranscriptomic platform to identify and validate strains that modulate the vaginal and urogenital microbiome. LUCA's pipeline includes therapeutics for UTI, preterm birth (PTB), and bacterial vaginosis (BV).
"We have an unparalleled opportunity to make a true impact in women's health and translate breakthroughs in microbiome science into innovative therapeutics," said Luba Greenwood, LUCA co-founder and board member. "We are targeting areas of high unmet medical needs to revolutionize treatment for often poorly treated conditions that affect millions of women across the world."
The company's Board of Advisors is comprised of a consortia of experts across vaginal health, microbiology, reproductive medicine, microbial genomics, and mucosal immunology, including Dr. Marina Walther-Antonio (Mayo Clinic), Dr. Douglas Kwon (Harvard Medical School, MIT), Dr. Maria Gloria Dominguez-Bello (Rutgers), Dr. Anne Dunlop (Emory School of Medicine), Dr. Gregor Reid (Western) and Dr. Indira Mysorekar (Washington University). Dr. Greg Sieczkiewicz (MPM Capital) and Raja Dhir (Seed Health) will serve as board members.
LUCA LAUNCHES OUT OF SEED HEALTH FOUNDRY
LUCA is the first biotechnology company to emerge from Seed Health, a microbial sciences company accelerating breakthrough science into live biotherapeutics and consumer innovations. Through its foundry model, Seed Health partners with leading scientists to provide capital investment, regulatory and IP guidance, biofermentation scale-up, and efficiencies in clinical trials through its academic partnerships. Seed Health was founded by Ara Katz and Raja Dhir to realize the potential of microbes to target pervasive, unmet medical needs for which microbial therapies may become or replace the primary standard of care.
"Launching LUCA represents a turning point in women's health and reflects our commitment to pioneer live biotherapeutics as the next frontier in modern medicine," said Dhir, co-CEO and co-founder of Seed Health.