14 April 2023

The University of Copenhagen invests in the development of medicines from health-promoting gut bacteria


The University of Copenhagen is the first Danish university to invest in a company based on its own research in a unique collaboration with a venture fund. In April 2023, the spinout GutCRINE ApS received initial funding of DKK 4 million DKK to begin the development of a completely new class of biological medicines, known as pharmabiotics.

Assistant Professor Yong Fan, Professor Oluf Borbye Pedersen, and Yong Fan's wife, PhD student Liwei Lyu. Photo: Claus Boesen.
Assistant Professor Yong Fan, Professor Oluf Borbye Pedersen, and Yong Fan's wife, PhD student Liwei Lyu. Photo: Claus Boesen.

The drugs are expected to prevent and treat diseases such as obesity, type-2 diabetes, osteoporosis and age-related diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinsonism. The funding comes from Eir Ventures investment fund and the University of Copenhagen's newly established investment company UCPH Ventures.

GutCRINE is based on pioneering DNA-based research into the intestinal community of billions of bacteria. The so-called gut microbiome. Professor Oluf Borbye Pedersen from the University of Copenhagen, together with Assistant Professor Yong Fan, has unveiled that certain bacteria in the human gut microbiome produce hormones that regulate metabolism and brain activity after absorption from the gut into the blood. This is the first discovery worldwide that the gut microbiome synthesises hormones that influence human biology.

Paradigm shift in the treatment of chronic diseases

With GutCRINE, Professor Pedersen aims to develop a completely new class of medications called pharmabiotics against metabolic diseases and age-related disorders. If successful, this will be a paradigm shift in the treatment of chronic diseases.

"We have identified and characterised specific intestinal bacteria that surprisingly affect human health in previously unknown ways. That insight opens a highway that can lead to both the prevention and treatment of several frequent diseases," says Professor Oluf Borbye Pedersen, CSO GutCRINE ApS from the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research under the University of Copenhagen’s Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences,

The spinout receives an initial investment of DKK 4 million DKK from Eir Ventures and UCPH Ventures. For the University's innovation officer, it is a particularly big day.

"The University of Copenhagen is known for carrying out leading research. We also have a long history of helping researchers set up companies based on their research, but until now that help has consisted of business advice and legal assistance. We are proud that, as the first Danish university, we can also directly invest in a company that one of our researchers has spun off," says David Dreyer Lassen, Pro-Rector for Research at the University of Copenhagen.

From research to business

The University has adopted a new innovation strategy, where an important element is to support researchers who want to turn their research into new businesses. For example, via closer cooperation with private investors.

Eir Ventures, which has a cooperation agreement with UCPH Ventures, has been actively involved in the establishment of GutCRINE, and Tobias Horneman-Thielke, who is a partner in Eir Ventures, will be the managing director of the company. Co-founder of Eir Ventures, Stephan Christgau, is pleased to be able to establish this ‘seed’ investment together with UCPH Ventures.

"We’re excited to participate in the first investment from the University of Copenhagen's new investment company. The research that Professor Oluf Borbye Pedersen and his team have carried out is of the highest scientific quality and has been so for decades. Their insights are crucial for understanding the role of gut bacteria in human health. Original and innovative research like this is exactly what Eir Ventures is looking for when we support the establishment of new biotech companies", says Stephan Christgau, Partner in Eir Ventures.

About GutCRINE ApS

GutCRINE is a biotech spinout from the University of Copenhagen. The company will focus on developing new drugs to prevent and treat common metabolic and age-related disorders. Professor Oluf Borbye Pedersen, senior physician and specialist in endocrinology and medicine, MD, founded GutChRINE in 2023. The company is based on Oluf Borbye Pedersen's and Assistant Professor Yong Fan’s groundbreaking discoveries at the University of Copenhagen. Their research has shown that certain bacteria in the human gut synthesise bioactive substances, so-called polypeptide hormones, which regulate the human host's metabolism and brain activity through the bloodstream and a special signaling pathway between the gut and the brain.

About Eir Ventures

Eir Ventures I AB is a Scandinavian life science venture capital fund that invests in private companies with outstanding entrepreneurs developing transformative therapeutic approaches. The fund started its investment activities in 2020 and invests in opportunities that address significant unmet medical needs for new therapies, medical technology and digital health. Eir Ventures AB is led by a team of experienced life science investors and backed by a strong investor syndicate consisting of leading local and international institutional investors and, somewhat uniquely, leading Nordic universities. More information is available at www.eirventures.eu.

About UCPH Ventures

UCPH Ventures was established in 2022 and signed a co-investment agreement with Eir Ventures. The University of Copenhagen has set aside up to EUR 2 million for co-investments with Eir Ventures. The perspective is to take advantage of the world-class research carried out at the University by investing in the development of spinouts. It is the first time that a Danish university has engaged in this form of spinout and investment support.