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VC-backed Vedanta to target cancer via ‘good’ bacteria

In the past five years, scientists have discovered that microbes living in your gut may be responsible for a great many things that contribute to your well-being - from your mood, to your body’s response to sickness.

Now, venture capital firm PureTech Ventures is launching a new company, called Vedanta Biosciences. Incubated in PureTech’s Boston offices, Vedanta aims to commercialize research newly published today in the academic journal Science, that indicates beneficial, gut-dwelling bacteria may also be useful for combating allergies and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Vedanta, led for now by PureTech partner Daphne Zohar, aims to begin with allergies and IBD, and then move on to apply that insight to a broader range of conditions where immunology plays a role - such as transplantation, cancer and type 1 diabetes, said Dr. Bernat Olle, a senior associate at PureTech who is also one of Vedanta’s founding executives. The company, which has been operating stealthily until now, announced itself in a press release today.

Specific gut-dwelling microbes control the activity of cells in the body that regulate immune response, according to the findings of researchers at the University of Tokyo. The researchers found mice that were exposed to such bacteria showed improved levels of such regulatory T cells in their bodies. The University of Tokyo research focused specifically on certain strains of Clostridia, a gut-dwelling microbe that had previously been known for causing harmful, and even deadly side effects in conjunction with use of antibiotics. Researchers compared the difference between good bacteria and harmful bacteria to cholesterol, which doctors and scientists also divide into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ categories.

Olle said understanding the mechanism by which such microbes communicate with the immune system could be key to unlocking therapies for any condition where the immune system’s regulatory function is important. “We’ve evolved with these microbes for millions of years,” Olle said. “They’ve been communicating with us in a code that we don’t really understand yet. There’s some research now that we think makes important steps toward understanding this language.”

Read more: VC-backed Vedanta to target cancer via ‘good’ bacteria | Boston Business Journal

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