Phico Therapeutics raises further £1.8m to develop new class of superbug antibiotics

2 April 2010

Cambridge based Phico Therapeutics, has raised £1.8 million from their recent funding round of institutional investors and business angels to develop new treatments for drug-resistant superbugs.

The company has raised more than £3.7 million during the last 12 months, despite the difficult funding environment, bringing the total investment in the company to date to approximately £9 million.

Phico's technology, known as SASPject, works by using a unique antibiotic protein, SASP, to inactivate the DNA of targeted, harmful bacteria. Phico is in clinical trials in humans with its first product, aimed at eliminating Staphylococcus aureus, including MRSA, from the nose. This application is an important part of controlling infection in hospital.

The Phase I trial, and the upcoming Phase II clinical trial with the Company's first product, PT1.2, are funded by a £1.03 million Strategic Translation Award from the Wellcome Trust. The new money will be used to support the clinical development programme of PT 1.2 and will also fund the continuing development of the SASPject platform to treat infections due to other important pathogens, including Gram negative organisms and Clostridium difficile - all common causes of infection in hospitals.

Phico's technology is biologically designed to target only the selected range of pathogenic bacteria so that helpful good bacteria are left unharmed. Furthermore, no mechanism has yet been identified by which bacteria can become resistant to SASP. The SASPject technology could form the basis of a new class of antibiotics.

SASPject technology explained

SASPject is a novel antibiotic therapy that can be targeted to any bacteria including multi-drug resistant bugs. The first SASPject, PT1.2 has been developed initially for nasal decolonisation of S. aureus including MRSA. SASPject has two components, the first is antibiotic protein SASP which inactivates bacterial DNA, and the second is a target-specific delivery vector.

SASPject delivery vectors inject genes for the antibiotic protein SASP through the cell wall of target bacteria. SASP are produced inside the targeted bacterium where they bind to and inactivate the bacterial chromosome and plasmid DNA.

In this way SASP prevents cell reproduction, and potentially toxin production, thus halting the spread of the infection, and also stop bacterial metabolism, which kills the targeted bacteria. Crucially, SASP binds to the bacterial DNA in a non-sequence-specific manner and so does not allow the bacteria to evolve resistance.

SASPject is effective against S. aureus, a Gram positive bacterium and E. coli, a Gram negative bacterium. These findings mean that SASPject has the potential to be effective against all species of drug resistant bacteria.


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