Technology could form the basis of a new class of antibiotics
UK biotechnology company Phico Therapeutics has raised £1.8m from its recent funding round of institutional investors and business angels, bringing the total raised during the last 12 months to more than £3.7m and the total investment in the company to date to approximately £9m.
Phico is developing treatments for drug-resistant 'superbugs' using technology known as SASPject, which works by using a unique antibiotic protein, SASP, to inactivate the DNA of targeted, harmful bacteria.
SASPject delivery vectors inject genes for 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 prevent 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 bind to the bacterial DNA in a non-sequence-specific manner and so does not allow the bacteria to evolve resistance.
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 £1.03m 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.