BioNTech acquires bacteriophage company PhagoMed
BioNTech has announced it has completed the acquisition of the bacteriophage therapy, Austrian company PhagoMed GmbH to “increase its infectious disease portfolio capabilities”. According to the Handelsblatt, the operation may have involved a payment of up to €150M.
BioNTech has been highly celebrated since its mRNA-based vaccine against COVID-19 was the very first one to be approved by the US FDA and the European Medicines Agency in record time in November 2020. Since then, over 7.5 billion doses of this vaccine have been administered worldwide, therefore significantly contributing to the favourable evolution of the pandemic. The company is regarded as one of the world leaders not only in mRNA science, but also in other high-tech areas of biopharmaceutical development such as CAR-T and antibodies, which has led it to establish strategic partnerships with leading pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer (with which it co-developed the COVID-19 vaccine), Genentech, Eli Lilly, Sanofi and Bayer, amongst others.
PhagoMed’s technology is based on two different platforms or therapeutic approaches. The first one uses synthetic lysins, i.e. improved versions of the enzymes produced by bacteriophages to break down and kill bacteria, to fight infectious diseases as an alternative to antibiotics. Lysins are very precise and specific for their target microbes, which enables lysin-based anti-infectives be selective and thus respectful with the broader, non-pathogenic microbiome community. The company’s lead lysin candidate is PM-477, which targets Gardnerella spp. for the treatment of recurrent bacterial vaginosis. Its lysins pipeline includes additional development programs with undisclosed targets.
The company’s second approach to treat infections involves the use of whole, recombined phages. Its lead candidate here is PM-399, a phage cocktail specifically assembled to treat complex S. aureus biofilms that form on implants, causing infection.
This acquisition, which may be interpreted as the entry of BioNTech in the microbiome field, may also be regarded as a great endorsement and validation for microbiome drug development in general, and for bacteriophage technologies in particular.