Paradigm of treatment of mental health to be transformed by gut-brain development program

July 13, 2022 - 3 minutes
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Building on a decade of research, a development program for next-generation probiotics and therapeutics to modulate gut microbiota and mental health has been launched.

Seed Health, a microbiome science company along with Axial Therapeutics, a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company announced the joint program in the US today (July 13).

It will build on the work by Axial co-founder Sarkis Mazmanian whose California Institute of Technology (Caltech) lab first discovered the critical contributions of intestinal microbes and microbial metabolites in neuropsychiatric conditions.

With joint expertise across discovery, mechanistic validation, microbial fermentation, scale-up and clinical research and commercialization. The program is positioned to transform the current paradigm of treatment in mental health and will target areas like anxiety, depression and overall mental well-being.

In the past fifteen years, the gut microbiome has emerged as one of the critical regulators of brain function. Known as the gut-brain axis (or, more specifically, the microbiome-gut-brain axis), this bidirectional line of communication impacts the central nervous system and, in turn, mood, cognition, and motor and autonomic activity.

Mazmanian’s lab was the first to discover that molecular signals from gut bacteria can profoundly influence anxiety behavior. More recently, a study published in Nature from the Sarkis Mazmanian Lab revealed that specific microbes alone can modulate neuronal activity in the hypothalamus to reduce levels of the stress hormone corticosterone (known in humans as cortisol) and regulate social behaviors.

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Gut-brain axis

Mazamanian said: “Until recently, we’ve lacked clarity into how the gut microbiome regulates emotions and impacts complex behaviors. A growing body of research is advancing understanding of the gut-brain axis and revealing the potential for microbial innovations to maintain or even improve mental well-being. The collaboration between Seed Health and Axial Therapeutics will translate this breakthrough research into novel probiotics and living medicines for a range of cognitive and neuropsychiatric outcomes.”

The development program will be overseen by Seed Health co-founder and co-CEO Raja Dhir and recently-appointed chief scientific officer (CSO) Dirk Gevers, former Head of J&J’s Janssen Human Microbiome Institute.

Gevers said: “The work of Dr. Mazmanian and the Axial team brings us to a critical inflection point in gut-brain research, unlocking insights that allow movement beyond correlation to causation. We now have the human-centric data defining the gut-mediated mechanisms that influence behavior. At the same time, we reveal the potential to harness specific bacterial strains to repress the metabolites implicated in a range of neurological applications.”

Neurological conditions

Stewart Campbell, CEO of Axial Therapeutics explained the company was founded to help realize the potential of the gut brain-axis as a new framework for mental health treatment and neurological conditions.

He added: “This collaboration with Seed Health complements our existing work in small molecule therapies and expands the application of our research and opportunity for impact. Our deep expertise in this field, combined with Seed’s impressive work in microbiome and product innovation, solidifies a powerful force in gut-brain development.”

Axial Therapeutics is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on the discovery and development of gut-restricted, small molecule therapeutics for central nervous system (CNS) disorders. The company is leveraging its expertise in the gut-brain axis and its unique drug development platform to advance novel therapies that have the potential to transform the treatment paradigm in neurodegenerative diseases.

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