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Inspired by the microbiome, can poop pills and gut bugs help boost cancer immunotherapy’s effects?

When launching her new microbiome-based cancer drug start-up, Stephanie Culler ran into an unexpected problem: she couldn’t find enough poop.

Poop is the currency of companies like the one she cofounded, Persephone Biome, which study the trillions of microorganisms that make up our gut microbiomes. The companies are all building on recent discoveries that suggested that certain bacteria living in our gut—and expelled in our stool—could alter the effectiveness of cancer therapies.

[…]Lest poop transplants sound unsavory, several biotech companies have already been developing therapies that remove, or at least minimize, any stool transfer. One of those is Seres Therapeutics, which relies on stool samples from healthy donors to make poop pills—oral drugs containing the spores of bacteria that Seres has identified as being important for inducing a checkpoint response. The company has teamed up with MD Anderson and the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy to test those pills with checkpoint inhibitors.

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