Microba scores first distribution deal with Sonic Healthcare

Microba scores first distribution deal with Sonic Healthcare

Photo: Microba, via Facebook.

Gut health testing and therapeutics company Microba (ASX: MAP) has signed its first commercial agreement with Sonic Healthcare (ASX: SHL) since the global diagnostics giant acquired almost a fifth of the company for $17.8 million in late 2022, in a move that sent shares 5 per cent higher in early trading.

The Brisbane-based precision microbiome group reached the agreement with Sonic subsidiary Douglass Hanly Moir Pathology to distribute Microba’s advanced infectious disease test MetaPanel in Australia.

MetaPanel utilises Microba's metagenomics technology to diagnose infectious pathogens such as bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses, while also assessing virulence factors and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) genes to support precise treatment decisions.

By using the product, clinicians are able to avoid multiple, low-coverage, and sequential diagnostic tests that can impact treatment outcomes for vulnerable patients.

"We are excited to be bringing Microba's testing products to clinicians and their patients throughout Australia via Sonic Healthcare's specialist national laboratory network," says Microba chief executive officer Dr Luke Reid.

"The MetaPanel technology was developed over many years and represents a world-first in pathology through comprehensive metagenomic testing for gastrointestinal infectious diseases.

"Sonic Healthcare is a leading provider of high-quality pathology services and will lead the commercialisation efforts to deliver the MetaPanel test nationally."

Reid says Sonic's Australian network will be the first region to distribute Microba's technology, stemming from intellectual property from the University of Queensland acquired by the company in 2017 which now forms the basis of Microba's analysis platform.

He adds there are plans to deliver Microba's testing technology and products into additional markets across the globe through the partnership. 

The MetaPanel technology specifically tests for causal agents of gastrointestinal infectious disease - a condition that is estimated to affect more than 16 million patients globally per annum, including 100,000 in Australia. 

Current diagnostic testing methods include culturing technologies and nucleic acid amplification tests such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR).

These testing methods are limited in their ability to cover the full diversity of pathogens, subtypes and AMR genes, and are often subject to sequential testing which delays critical treatment decisions.

Last week Microba announced it had been awarded $2.9 million in funding by the Medical Research Future Fund to support Microba and the QUT Centre for Microbiome Research (CMR) to establish a world-leading human microbiome biobank - the Australian Human Microbiome Biobank (AHMB).

The announcement was described as an "enormous opportunity" for Microba by the company's senior vice president of therapeutics, Professor Trent Munro.

He explained the biobank would provide a valuable resource to advance our current therapeutic programs in inflammatory bowel disease, immuno-oncology and autoimmune diseases, and future potential programs.

"Our previous research has identified new microorganisms associated with a range of other human diseases, and the AHMB will significantly enhance our ability to rapidly translate these findings into new therapies," Munro said.

The following day, the company announced a Phase 1 clinical trial had commenced for its inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) program, which is being conducted by Nucleus Network in Melbourne.

"Microba has now matured into a clinical stage drug development company," Munro said.

"I am proud of our team and what we have built to bring novel microbiome drugs all the way from human-data guided discovery, through to an orally delivered drug product now dosed in a first in human clinical trial."

These are just a few of the activities Microba is engaged in, which also include a precision prebiotics subscription service launched called Vidality in partnership with Brisbane-based Midnight Health.

Public knowledge about the importance of the microbiome is on the rise, as evidenced not just by investments and deals such as those reached by Microba, but also sales figures for probiotics.

Yesterday, Biome Australia (ASX: BIO) reported record sales in the June quarter for its products including probiotics, which founder and CEO Blair Norfolk attributed to a fair degree of demand elasticity from consumers who are aware of the health benefits, regardless of cost of living pressures. 

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