CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—Concerto Biosciences today announced the launch of a discovery endeavor to develop a new microbial product for the treatment of vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC), a vaginal yeast infection that adversely affects 75% of women at some point during their lifetimes.
Approximately 1.5 million women in the U.S. experience more than 4 episodes of symptomatic VVC per year. “All available drugs on the market fail to address the recurrent nature of this disease,” said Concerto Cofounder and CEO Cheri Ackerman. “It’s this recurrence that can be debilitating for women, both physically and emotionally. That’s why we’re developing a strategy to decrease not only the severity but also the frequency of these episodes.”
Yeast infections are typically treated with topical or oral antifungals designed to kill the causal agent, Candida albicans. Concerto’s product will instead tap into the protective capability of vaginal microbes, some of which naturally work together to pacify C. albicans and prevent disease. Concerto’s Ensemble No.3 (ENS-003) will consist of an optimal combination of live microbes, rigorously selected among millions of possible combinations within the vaginal microbiome, to keep C. albicans in a state that does not cause harm.
The selection of ENS-003’s constituent microbes will be enabled by Concerto’s kChip discovery engine. With kChip, Concerto will construct millions of defined microbial combinations—each representing one possible candidate for ENS-003—among which the Concerto team can pinpoint the optimal combination.
The team will further train AI models on the massive datasets collected with kChip in order to fully map the behavior of all possible combinations of vaginal microbes. “We will essentially ‘solve’ the microbial ecology of the vagina in the context of this disease,” said Jared Kehe, Cofounder and Chief Scientific Officer of Concerto. “It’s an exciting goal, requiring a tremendous data set and a synthesis among human, microbial, and artificial intelligences. Concerto uniquely possesses the ability to perform this kind of highly complex analysis.”
Concerto applies the same kChip discovery method to find breakthrough microbe-based products across many industries, primarily in the context of co-discovery partnerships with other companies. “Microbial relationships contain the secrets of unimaginably innovative products—everywhere,” said Kehe. “The skin, gut, mouth, and vagina all contain protective microbes, as does the soil, livestock and pets, even your kitchen counter. We work with other companies to solve problems anywhere that microbes grow.”
Since launching in 2020, Concerto has discovered Ensemble No.2 (ENS-002), a specific combination of skin-dwelling microbes intended to correct the microbial deficiency underlying eczema. This product candidate is currently being optimized for initiation of a first-in-human study in 2024. Building off that success, ENS-003 is an example of the company’s generalization of the kChip platform to product development across human health, agriculture, animal health, and consumer needs.
Concerto completed a $23 million Series A fundraise in November 2022 led by Safar Partners and joined by Horizons Ventures and M Ventures. In April, Cofounder and CEO Cheri Ackerman was selected by Ernst & Young LLP (EY US) as an Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2023 New England Award finalist.