South Korea has emerged as a leading hub for innovative microbiome research and development, with a thriving biopharmaceutical industry and cutting-edge research institutions. In this article, we will highlight seven South Korean microbiome developers that are poised to make significant advancements in 2024.
Korean Microbiome Developers
- Genome & Co
Located in Seongnam-Si, Genome + Co is a global biopharma company which develops microbiome pharmaceuticals, along with consumer products and novel immune checkpoint inhibitors. Their discovery platform, GNOCLE™, combines a library of real-world clinical data, with multi-omic analysis and in vitro/vivo assays to identify novel microbiome targets.
Genome & Co’s pipeline consists of programs including stomach cancer, biliary tract cancer, autism spectrum disorder, infertility, and cancer rash. Collaborators for these programs include Merck, LG Chem, MSD, and Genome + Co’s subsidiary: Scioto Bioscience. Genome & Co’s lead candidate, Gen-001, is a phase 2 single strain live biotherapeutic (LBP) to treat stomach cancer and biliary tract cancer. In May 2023, the company reported positive results from interim analysis of their phase 2 trial for Gen-001 combined with Avelumbab to treat stomach cancer. The company expects the full data to be released in late 2023, and stated they are seeking a licensing agreement for the candidate.
ImmunoBiome is a North Gyeonsang Province-based biotech company seeking to develop novel LBPs to treat incurable disorders. In 2020, the company signed a CDMO contract with Biose Industrie. ImmunoBiome has two candidates listed on their public pipeline, with 10 domestic and 5 international patents to date. Their lead candidate, IMB001, is a patented single strain LBP with unique polysaccharides (RHP) on its’ surface which targets human melanoma and colon cancer. IMB001’s anti-cancer effects are facilitated through T-cell activation, sequestering of iron ions in the tumor microenvironment, and synergetic effect with immuno-oncology drugs. Their second candidate, IMB002 is a patented single strain LBP with different unique polysaccharides on its’ surface (CSGG) which targets inflammatory disorders (IBD, RA, Orphan disease).
- CJ Biosciences
Founded as an independent subsidiary of CJ CheilJedang’s Red Bio, CJ Bioscience utilises it’s Ez-Mx platform to develop LBPs across a range of diseases. CJ Biosciences have 17 programsspanning the immune-oncology, gastrointestinal, liver, and neurological categories. In March 2023 CJ acquired 11 drug candidates from the UK-based biotech 4D-Pharma. The company’s lead candidate CJRB-205 is in phase 2 and targets irritable bowel syndrome. In December 2022, CJ Biosciences’ submitted phase 1 clinical trial protocols for CJRB-101, an immuno-oncology asset to target solid tumours.
Working to develop drugs, and functional food materials, the 2012 founded AtoGEN have 6 programs in development. Their pipeline consists of drugs to target bacterial vaginosis, cancer cachexia, NASH, asthma, and lung disease. In July 2023, AtoGEN completed a phase 1 clinical trial for Labthera-001, a single strain candidate, targeting bacterial vaginosis. The randomised control trial found 0 serious adverse events across 24 treated women. The trial protocol for this candidate described the drugs mechanism as temporary colonisation of the vagina to encourage a more normal microbiome.
- GI Biome
Founded in 2018, GI Biome is a drug developer based in Seongnam-si, which aims to “lead the future of disease treatment by developing innovative microbiome” therapies. GI Biome has 4 programs in its development pipeline, developed from their “GI-SCOVERY” platform, which include targets such as: cancer, metabolic disease, autoimmune disease, and inflammatory disease. In June 2023, their lead candidate GB-X01 combined with bevacizumab, a drug for colorectal cancer entered the clinic. This single strain candidate has shown anti-tumour effects in a mouse model. The trial will be operated as a decentralised clinical trial. Biose are working with GI Biome to manufacture GB-X01.
Based in Daejeon, and founded in 2017, Healthbiome is a bioventure company specialised the research and development of strict anaerobes as LBPs. Currently, all candidates are in preclinical stage and target the indications IBD, dementia, sarcopenia, and cancer. Two of HealthBiome’s candidates are single strain Akkermansia muciniphila strains (for cancer, IBD, and sarcopenia), and the other is a strain of Agathobaculum butryiciproducens (for dementia). HealthBiome has established its own GMP factory for the manufacture of their LBPs.
Established in 2021, Liveome, a subsidiary of Medytox, are working to develop next-generation microbiome therapeutics. Liveome have 6 programs in development, targeting gastrointestinal disease, solid cancer, transplant related disease, and autoimmune disease. LIV001, Liveome’s lead candidate, targets gastrointestinal disease and entered the clinic in September 2023. In January 2023, Liveome won a patent for their engineered-LBP platform in Japan, which utilises gene editing to impart specific therapeutic function onto bacteria.
South Korea has positioned itself as a global leader in microbiome research and development, driving remarkable advancements in the field. As we look ahead to 2024, it is clear that South Korea will continue to shape the future of microbiome-focused innovations, furthering our understanding of the intricate relationship between the microbiome and human health. Biose will continue to contribute to and engage with South Korea’s microbiome industry as it furthers itself as the global microbiome CDMO.