UH Tech Bridge Tenant Sanarentero receives $400,000 Grant to Develop Genetic Biocontainment Switch for a Synthetic Bacteria that Improves Gut Health of Cancer Patients

Sanarentero, which focuses on the treatment and prevention of gut-related diseases and disorders, received additional $400,000 grant from the National Cancer Institute to develop a genetic biocontainment switch as a safety feature of drug detoxifying bacteria (DDB) that prevents chemotherapy-induced diarrhea in cancer patients.

Housed at the University of Houston’s Technology Bridge, Sanarentero is led by co-founders Ming Hu, a professor of pharmaceutics and the Diane S.L. Chow professor of Drug Development and Discovery in the College of Pharmacy at UH, and UH alumna Rashim Singh.

Bioengineered microbes are a promising strategy to develop live biotherapeutic products that can introduce novel metabolic activities into the gut microbiome and digestive system for the prevention and treatment of several gut-related diseases/disorders. The transmission of genetically modified microbes is a major biosafety concern, and Sanarentero’s current research focuses on developing a novel DDB that aims to detoxify gut-toxic drugs, which will address that concern while improving the DDB’s clinical adaptability.

Sanarentero’s most recent award will help fund the development of a Genetic Biocontainment Switch, a platform technology that improves the safety profile of the company’s DDB and is designed to remove the engineered metabolic function without killing the bacteria, such that the commensal bacteria is returned to its native state in the gut microbial environment once chemotherapy is over.

According to Singh, up to 80 percent of Americans undergoing chemotherapy for cancer treatment experience poor quality of life due to chemotherapy-induced gut complications. Certain cancer drugs, such as irinotecan and TKIs, have a higher potential of causing intestinal injury, with 10 to 15 percent of cancer patients on Irinotecan potentially having life-threatening severe delayed-onset diarrhea, which may require hospitalization, interruption in care and higher healthcare costs.

As prevailing treatments are opioid-based – mainly causing symptomatic relief and often leading to gut complications during chemotherapy – Sanarentero focuses on non-opioid based therapy to address the problems associated with the current chemotherapy-induced diarrhea management therapies.