Professor Morten Otto Alexander Sommer - BioInnovation Institute

Professor Morten Otto Alexander Sommer

Microbial cell therapies for modulating the gut-brain axis

The gut-brain axis is established with important roles in several debilitating diseases, including depression, anxiety and Parkinson disease. However, limited therapeutic options are available to modulate the gut-brain axis. We are making microbial cell therapies producing the neuroactive compounds in situ of the gut to treat diseases of the central nervous system.

PI Morten Otto Alexander Sommer

In parallel to his academic career, Professor Morten Otto Alexander Sommer has been focused on translating research progress from his laboratory into start-ups. He has co-founded six life science companies, amongst them are SNIPR Biome and UNION therapeutics. The six start-ups have taken different corporate development strategies and through these experiences, Morten Otto Alexander Sommer has gained entrepreneurial competencies such as investor dialogue, pharma partnering, FDA/EMA interactions and drug development.

Scientific Collaborator Harris Wang

Harris Wang, Assistant Professor at University of Columbia, is a key collaborator on the development and testing of serotonin microbial cell therapy in this project. His lab is closely involved in the in vivo testing.

Host University
Q&A with Principal Investigator Morten Otto Alexander Sommer
What have you learned about establishing companies that you can use in academia?

One particularly important thing that comes out of establishing companies is that you get in touch with the significant problems in society. In academia, there is less of a focus on identifying real needs, and that can be a good thing, but in companies, the drive is to solve problems. To be conscious about that has allowed me to direct some of my research towards important societal problems.

How did you develop an eye for potential spinouts or translational projects?

I have always had a great interest in commercialization and started my first company while I was studying. Throughout my career, entrepreneurship and academia have been parallel tracks and I have gradually learned how to identify the translational potential in different projects.

What are the most promising technologies or solutions you have seen come out of your field of research?

Overall we see many promising technologies right now. CRISPR has been revolutionizing as well as the ability to program biological systems in a very targeted manner. It has truly created the foundation for a lot of new opportunities. In addition to synthetic biology, the human microbial biome is emerging as a key contributor to human health and wellbeing. That is also something, I expect to see a lot from.

”The Sommer project is pioneering the development of a novel class of living medicines, microbial cell therapies, for modulation of the gut-brain axis. Based on their proprietary synthetic biology platform, the team aims to genetically engineer beneficial microbes with the potential to transform treatment paradigms of CNS disorders including Parkinson’s disease and treatment-resistant depression.”

Louise Clemmensen, Senior Scientific Developer, BioInnovation Institute

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