Viewing Persephone Biome Inc. - University of California 3rd Annual Pitch Competition

Stephanie Culler

Alumni of UC San Diego - Revelle, Chemical Engineering (Undergraduate)

Persephone Biome Inc.

The role of gut microbes in human health has been recognized for decades; however, recent advances in technology have expanded our understanding of microbiome population dynamics, metabolic activity, and functional interaction with the human body. Nearly $1B of private equity has been invested in a growing number of companies developing human microbiome-directed products or therapies that augment, suppress, or modify gut microbial metabolism (Silicon Valley Bank). Persephone Biome is taking a unique approach to cancer therapy, leveraging the interaction between oncology drugs and the gut microbiome. We are focused on a class of groundbreaking cancer drugs known as checkpoint inhibitors, which function by enabling the patient’s own immune system to fight the tumor. Examples include blockbuster drugs, ipilimumab (Yervoy) and nivolumab (Opdivo). However, these drugs are effective in less than 50% of patients in which they have been used. Last month, two high-impact publications in Science magazine demonstrated that gut microbes influence and modulate the efficacy of immunotherapy. These results have tremendous implications on new microbiome therapies. Leveraging tools and experience in systems and synthetic biology, we will unravel the complexities of the microbial ecosystem in the human gut; specifically, the interactions among microbes, checkpoint inhibitors, and the human immune system will be elucidated. This knowledge will be used to design and develop live biotherapeutics (FDA approved probiotics) that will restore metabolic functions needed to ensure the efficacy of cancer immunotherapy.

Primary Industry Sector: Medical Therapeutics
This is a a woman-founded Startup
Funding Status: Seed

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