Feb 29, 2024

Our Investment in Neobe

Neobe is developing a synthetic biology platform to engineer bacteria that disrupt the extracellular matrix of solid tumors and enhance immunotherapy success.

Julie Wolf

The Tumor Extracellular Matrix Prevents Broadly Effective Cancer Treatment

Immune checkpoint inhibitors first entered clinical applications when ipilimumab was approved by the FDA in 2011. This approval followed key discoveries in the 1990s that identified key immune regulatory pathways that tumors exploit to evade immune detection, and marked a significant advance in cancer therapy. Since then, immunotherapy drugs have significantly improved outcomes for patients with melanoma, lung cancer, and more.

Over the past decade, ICIs have shown significant efficacy, especially in melanoma and NSCLC patients. Despite the rapid expansion of immunotherapy, 50-60% of patients with solid tumors that qualify for ICI do not respond to therapy due to immune exclusion. One reason for immunotherapy failure is the tumor extracellular matrix (ECM), which physically excludes anti-tumor immune cells, along with other suppression mechanisms. 

To counter the problem of ECM exclusion, Neobe is engineering bacteria that disrupt the tumor ECM, enhancing immunotherapy success.

A Founding Team with the Skills and Experience to Build

Developing a microbial product for oncology application requires a specialized skill combination and the Neobe team brings this and more. As we got to know the founding team better, we were truly impressed by their unique combination of subject matter expertise, regulatory experience, and their extraordinary drive. 

The team is led by CEO Pedro Correa de Sampaio, Ph.D., who has been on a mission to understand solid tumor treatment his entire life. After completing his doctoral thesis at Cambridge, his postdoctoral work at MD Anderson focused on tumor stroma and extracellular matrix. CSO Annelise Soulier, Ph.D., brings extensive experience in synbio, microbiology and immuno-oncology and previously worked at Prokarium, which uses bacteria as a delivery system for immunotherapy. 

Neobe uses Synthetic Biology to Design Bacteria that Destroy the Tumor Extracellular Matrix

Neobe is developing bacteria able to disrupt the tumor ECM in order to enhance immune infiltration of excluded tumors in a safe and localized way, enabling efficacy of existing immunotherapies. This engineered microbial product is the inspiration for the company’s name: a portmanteau of neo, meaning new and microbe.

Their novel microbes are engineered with 3 major components:

  1. Tumor-inducible biosensors
  2. Secretion release system
  3. ECM-degrading enzyme payload

The first and second components ensure the payload is only produced and released in the presence of the tumor itself. The team has generated promising data demonstrating both early safety and efficacy in a mouse model.

Initially, Neobe’s microbes will be used together with immunotherapies to enhance their efficacy. ln later stages, their delivery microbe can be upgraded to a single agent therapy by integrating multiple payloads to become the complete treatment option.

Neobe is well aligned with our thesis at 2048 Ventures: We seek platform plays able to solve huge healthcare challenges. 

We are pleased to co-lead Neobe’s round, alongside others who share this vision, including the Pioneer Fund, Deep Science Ventures, Cancer Research UK, and Nadav Rosenberg of Saras Capital (thank you Nadav for introducing us to the Neobe team!).

Learn more about Neobe at their website and follow Pedro Correa de Sampaio on LinkedIn for additional insights into using Live Biotherapeutic Products to transform cancer treatment.

“At 2048 Ventures, we look to invest in platform plays that solve huge healthcare challenges. Neobe’s stromal remodeling microbes represent the best application of a synbio platform, which is using biology to engineer life-saving therapies for cancer patients. We are excited to partner with Neobe and join their mission in unlocking immunooncology treatments for all patients.”

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