Pragma Bio Searches for Cancer Treatments Hidden in Our Microbiome

Pragma Bio Searches for Cancer Treatments Hidden in Our Microbiome


Pragma Bio, a startup that focuses on searching for cancer treatments within the human body, has recently received $10 million in funding. The company has a unique approach to discovering new drugs, utilizing the swarm of resident microbes found within the human microbiome. Pragma Bio’s approach involves mapping the microbes, their genes, the proteins and enzymes they produce, and how all of these things may relate to disease pathology.

The Human Microbiome as a Source of Cancer Treatments

The human body is teeming with bacteria and other microorganisms, covering every surface both inside and out. While most are benign, some can be harmful, and many are beneficial in ways that are not yet fully understood. Certain microbes being present in the body can correlate with better outcomes in a number of illnesses, including cancer.

According to Kareem Barghouti, CEO and co-founder of Pragma Bio, the human body is a good source of interesting molecules. “It’s just like soil and plants, like where other products come from, we’re just looking at the body. And toxicity? Probably not, it’s already in there,” Barghouti said.

H2: Mining the Gut Biome for Cancer Treatments

There are two core components of Pragma Bio’s approach to mining the gut biome for cancer treatments. The first is a huge map of the microbes, their genes, the proteins and enzymes they produce, and how all of these things may relate to disease pathology. Pragma Bio is building a gigantic statistical model, which utilizes machine learning to identify likely candidates for investigation.

The first domain Pragma Bio is looking at augmenting is immunotherapy in oncology, which seems to have a particularly close relationship with the microbiome. “We’re building a biological map of immune cells tied to bacteria found in the body. But pharma companies don’t want a microbe, they want a molecule — they don’t know how to commercialize a bacterium,” Barghouti said.

Startup Pragma Bio received $10M to search for cancer treatments in the human microbiome, utilizing machine learning and fast sequencing methods.
Image Credits: Pragma Bio

Pragma Bio’s Faster Method of Sequencing and Testing

The second component of Pragma Bio’s approach is a much faster method of sequencing and testing the organisms and substances in question. Instead of breeding billions of microbes, Pragma Bio’s “self-read” system skips straight from DNA sequence to expression and a small supply of the desired molecule in just a few days. This makes them an agile partner for pharmaceutical companies willing to pay for leads.

However, the next step in drug development is expensive, involving synthesizing enough of a novel molecule that is more or less unknown to science and testing its effects in vivo. Fortunately, pharma companies do this every day and are happy to trade this resource for a potentially beneficial (and profitable) drug candidate.

Pragma Bio’s Future Plans

The new funding received by Pragma Bio will be used for scaling up production and other scaling efforts. The company did not want to blow all their operating cash on their first leads, which like any others may lead nowhere — it’s always a gamble in drug development, and all you can do is stack the deck in your favour as best you can.

All the same, the $10 million in funding is a nice round number that the company felt was good to get out there along with its new name. The investment so far was led by The Venture Collective, joined by Viking Global Investors, Merck Global Health Innovation Fund, and CJ Investments in Korea.

Pragma Bio’s approach to discovering cancer treatments is unique and exciting, utilizing the human microbiome as a source of potential drug candidates. With the funding received, the company will continue to scale up production and pursue its 10-year plan. As the field of microbiome research continues to
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