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NEW YORK—Drugs originating from biological, rather than synthetic, sources now make up the majority of available medicines, yet they all stem from the relatively few microbes that are easily cultured.
Lodo Therapeutics, under the leadership of its new CEO—serial biotech executive Dr. Dale Pfost—uses next-generation sequencing (NGS), artificial intelligence and synthetic biology to find new compounds that are hidden in the huge volume of microbial DNA. Such microbial molecules have great therapeutic potential because they have helped microbial life to continue for vast periods of time.
Lodo is trying to acquire data on the molecules directly from microbial DNA without having to culture the microbes and evaluate their byproducts first, which both speeds up research and lowers costs. The company is using its direct-access technologies to find new antibiotics for use against tuberculosis and other diseases, and anticancer drugs as well.
Formed in 2016 by Accelerator Corporation, a leading life-sciences investment and management firm, Lodo seeks to develop novel therapeutics by applying its metagenomics-based small-molecule discovery platform to discover novel anti-infective agents for two global partners while building an internal pipeline of oncology drug candidates. The company expects to establish more partnerships and expand its own programs in other therapeutic areas.
According to Pfost, who was previously general partner at venture capital firm Advent Life Sciences and acting CEO of MicroBiome Therapeutics, “Pharmaceuticals derived from nature have been among the richest sources of important drugs, but productivity declined as the limitations and costs of conventional technology restricted researchers to a small pool of candidates. Lodo’s platform is a game-changer. It uniquely integrates advanced technologies including NGS and AI/ML to leapfrog those limitations, providing us a historic opportunity to reinvent environmentally-sourced drug discovery.”
He added, “We are the only company that can broadly access microbial DNA encoding such highly diverse collections of drug-like molecules, and we can also analyze, prioritize and enrich these molecules in silico, with orders of magnitude improvements in efficiency and speed. Our scientists combine deep knowledge of molecular and biological targets with computer-aided structure activity relationship data to bridge from the DNA to assessments of the encoded molecule’s ability to bind to its target. This represents a quantum leap in capability compared to the laborious and costly laboratory methods required for conventional natural-product drug research. I welcome the opportunity to work with our exceptional team, top-tier partners and investors to further advance our platform and address major unmet medical needs.”
Dr. Sean Brody of Rockefeller University, a pioneer in direct molecular research and a co-founder of Lodo Therapeutics, said, “More than half of all small molecule drugs for cancer, infections and type 2 diabetes today are derived from natural products, representing significant promise of this approach for patients. Our genome-based, culture-independent approach exploits the power of microbial evolution to identify therapeutically valuable natural products. With the support of Accelerator, we can tap this rich, natural source of small-molecule diversity to develop new therapies for emerging bacteria and drug resistant bacteria, critical needs in today's global healthcare environment.”
In 2018, Lodo Therapeutics formed a strategic drug discovery collaboration with Genentech, a member of the Roche Group. Under the terms of the agreement, Genentech is using Lodo Therapeutics’ proprietary genome mining and biosynthetic cluster assembly platform to identify novel molecules with therapeutic potential against multiple disease-related targets of interest to Genentech. Lodo, which has already received an upfront payment, is also eligible to receive research, development and commercialization milestone payments up to $969 million, based on achievement of certain predetermined milestones. In addition, Lodo stands to receive tiered royalties on sales of certain products resulting from the collaboration.