AstraZeneca is partnering with US group Seres Therapeutics to investigate use of the body’s microbiome to improve cancer immunotherapy.

The companies have signed a three-year research collaboration to study microbiome-based approaches as a way of predicting which patients will respond best to specific cancer treatments.

The work could involve testing Seres’ investigational microbiome treatment SER-401 in combination with AZ’ cancer drugs.

Under the terms of the deal, the drugs giant will pay Seres $20 million in three equal installments over two years, and will also fund research related to the partnership.

Seres will hold rights to oncology targeted microbiome therapeutic candidates, while AZ retains an option to negotiate for rights to the programmes and other products or inventions that come out of the collaboration.

“Through the activities under this collaboration and in our SER-401 Phase Ib clinical study in metastatic melanoma, we hope to meaningfully advance our understanding of the potential for microbiome therapeutics to magnify the impact of cancer immunotherapy,” noted Seres’ president and chief executive Eric Shaff.