Doctor Michael Mosley, author of the hugely popular 5:2 Diet, has been quick to seize onto research into the human microbiome, which forms the centre-piece to his latest weight loss book.
For the uninitiated, the microbiome is found in the gut and on the skin. It consists of 10,000 microbial species and some 8mln protein encoding genes.
What we are beginning to learn is this eco-system, a microbial genome if you will, affects immunity, cognitive heath and the metabolism.
Mosley’s latest paperback is focused on the gut. One of the industry pathfinders in the field is London-listed OptiBiotix, led by the irrepressible Stephen O’Hara.
As part of the separate listing the company raised £4.5mln, which will be invested in developing a cosmetic for sensitive skin, an anti-infective hand product and potential treatment for eczema.
It is fair to say the research to date on the human microbiome has tended to focus on the gut rather than the skin, although there has been a significant uptick in work on the latter recently, according to life sciences investor Seventure Partners.
SkinBio has developed a topical probiotic, though cream applied to skin isn’t live in the way the popular health-enhancing drinks and yoghurts are.
Its SkinBiotix platform is protected by three patent families and 18 patent applications and is supported by a host of peer-reviewed academic publications.
Founded on science
“This company is founded on absolutely sound science and that’s important to me,” CEO O’Neill told Proactive Investors.
That platform technology has been developed to enhance the skin cell barrier, protect the skin and aid its regeneration.
From that it is developing the three products that manage, protect and restore the body’s largest organ.
The platform has also provided the company with near-, medium- and long-term “value inflection points”, according to O’Neill.
First cab off the rank will be the company’s cosmetic for sensitive skin, which should be properly formulated towards the end of this year, before entering human studies in the second-quarter of next.
The idea would be to compile a product information file, or PIF, that contains safety and information data, said O’Neill.
The plan then would be to find a partner who, very early in the piece, takes the product into the commercial phase.
“We’ve had early conversations about the cosmetic and we are getting nice positive feedback, so we are hopeful,” said the SkinBio boss.
Going into development in the third-quarter of next year is a prophylactic for healthcare acquired infections.
The proliferation of dispensers at the doors to wards is designed to prevent the rampant spread of hospital-acquired illnesses.
The problem is the alcohol-infused gel plays havoc with the hands of frequent users, such as doctors and nurses, and as such there is an unmet need for a more skin-friendly protective.
It is worth at this juncture pointing out that SkinBio’s products are tapping into huge potential markets – cosmetics is worth an estimated US$100bn a year, infection prevention US$17bn and eczema US$3.9bn.
The company hopes to begin commercialising the protective hand cream in 2020, the same year as development work begins on the eczema treatment.
Proof of concept human studies are likely to begin on the latter in 2021, with a partner coming on board by 2022 at the latest.
“The eczema programme is more complicated as it will involve phased trials,” said O’Neill.
“We want to be in the position where we have the regulatory pack. There are a lot of things you have to do before you can go into a human disease trial.”
As mentioned above, the stock market listing saw the company raise £4.5mln of investment, which means it is funded out to the end of 2018, at which point it should have a commercial partner for the cosmetic product.
Successfully achieving this milestone should result in a valuation uplift, which in turn would allow SkinBio to go out and refill the coffers.
Debuting at 9p, the stock hasn’t done too badly over the last six weeks, touching 13.5p earlier this month, before settling at 12.85p.
For the founding AIM investors that’s a 54% boost to the value of their holdings.
However, you sense this is just the first page of the first chapter of what looks set to be an interesting and exciting adventure.
“Our business strategy is we out-license to our partners very early on; to companies that are much bigger than us that can go on and commercialise our products for us,” said O’Neill.
“So, we have inflexion points in the near-, medium- and long-term for markets that are absolutely huge.”