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Amsterdam start-up receives funding to develop revolutionary type 1 diabetes treatment

8 months ago 27

Advanced Microbiome Interventions (AMI) start-up has received funding to help it research whether the key to helping type 1 diabetes patients avoid regular insulin shots lies within the body’s microorganisms.

Amsterdam-based start-up Advanced Microbiome Interventions (AMI) received a €300,000 convertible loan from Innovatiefonds Noord-Holland to develop a treatment for type 1 diabetes.

Diabetes, a condition characterised by high levels of blood sugar that, over time, can damage the heart, blood vessels, and other organs, mainly presents as type 2 diabetes in adults when their bodies become resistant to or don’t make enough insulin.

On the other hand, type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas produces little or no insulin by itself. The auto-immune condition sees around 31,000 young people receive diagnoses in Europe every year.

“You have to remember that there are no drugs [that cure] type 1 diabetes. So our goal is to develop a single daily oral dose solution for type 1 diabetes as an unmet clinical need,” AMI co-founder Professor Willem de Vos told Euractiv.

Awarded the Spinoza Prize in 2008, the highest scientific research award for top scientists in the Netherlands, de Vos is no rookie when starting health companies.

In 2022, he co-founded Alba Health to provide digital gut health support for children, which raised around €2.4 million in pre-seed funding this year.

Investment Analyst Jenny Tsin, from the fund that provided AMI’s convertible loan, told Euractiv that AMI does not have a valuation yet.

“We invest in very early-stage start-ups, and we use convertible loans to do that to avoid valuations,” Tsin said.

INH Fund Manager Wouter Keij said, “A cure for type 1 diabetes would be revolutionary.”

A healthy person’s microbiome can help someone with diabetes

In a statement, the INH said that research shows that microorganisms that everyone carries, called the microbiome, play an essential role in people’s health.

De Vos and his co-founder, Prof. Max Nieuwdorp, found that abnormalities in the gut microbiome are associated with type 1 diabetes and that interventions with microorganisms can correct these.

He said they successfully transferred a sample from a healthy donor’s microbiome to type 1 diabetes patients and found an improvement in the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas of diabetic patients. They used a faecal microbiota transplant (FMT) to achieve these results, which led to discovering metabolites and microbes that could replicate this effect.

“We filed a patent on that, and the patent is in the possession of AMI,” said de Vos.

Asked about AMI’s upcoming plans, de Vos said the convertible loan from Innovatiefonds Noord-Holland (INH) will allow them to start working on clinical trials.

“We expect data by, let’s say, the middle of the end of 2024,” he said. After that, they’ll get busy preparing for their next investment rounds.

While this phase one trial will occur in the Netherlands, de Vos said they “will see what [they] can do in other countries.”

If their treatment works, de Vos says it could perhaps help type 1 diabetes patients prolong their so-called honeymoon phase in which they don’t need to inject themselves with insulin to survive.

Then, if all goes well, de Vos imagines other countries can also benefit. He anticipates that AMI will likely go down the pharmaceutical route and eventually seek the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) approval.

“It will be a fantastic opportunity for European and global healthcare because we can treat patients who otherwise have to inject themselves. We could have an oral delivery system and use the pill that will help them to maintain their health instead of injecting,” said de Vos.

An opportunity for type 1 diabetes patients to lead everyday lives for as long as possible without daily injections would significantly boost their quality of life.

Pharma’s fact of life: More money in the US

Asked about why INH was interested in this diabetes start-up, Tsin told Euractiv that AMI is pursuing a very innovative project and is tackling a problem that not many parties are currently tackling.

“And they’re doing that in a very creative way,” Tsin added.

Tsin described de Vos and Nieuwdorp as experienced entrepreneurs, which meant that INH had more trust in them that they would be able to execute the task at hand.

Tsin also sees a potential for a return on their investment because if AMI’s medicine works, they could extend their work to treat other auto-immune conditions.

Asked about financing for these kinds of startups, de Vos says there’s more money in the US for such endeavours than in Europe.

“For pharma, especially, it’s a fact of life. On the other hand, I think the research climate in Europe is very good,” de Vos said. He highlighted that both Nieuwdorp and himself have experience starting up companies that got significant support from investors.

“So I know a little bit how it works. However, that’s not a guarantee for success,” said de Vos.

[By Christoph Schwaiger – Edited by Vasiliki Angouridi | Euractiv.com]

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