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Phico Therapeutics awarded £13.2m by CARB-X accelerator to fight anti-bacterial resistance

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Phico Therapeutics has been awarded a grant of up to £13.2m from Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator (CARB-X), a global non-profit partnership dedicated to accelerating antibacterial research to tackle the global rising threat of drug-resistant bacteria.

CEO Dr Heather Fairhead, left, at Phico Therapeutics in the Bertarelli Building, High Street, Bourn. Picture: Keith Heppell
CEO Dr Heather Fairhead, left, at Phico Therapeutics in the Bertarelli Building, High Street, Bourn. Picture: Keith Heppell

Phico, which was founded in 2000, expanded into the Bertarelli Building in Bourn in 2017. Its lead product, SASPject PT3.9, has been developed for the intravenous treatment of hospital infections caused by the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa, using Phico’s SASPject platform.

The platform utilises unique antibacterial small acid-soluble spore proteins (SASP) which target selected bacterial species to target and deactivate bacterial DNA, with the aid of nano-delivery vehicles. It works by injecting a gene that encodes SASP directly into the targeted bacteria.

This injected gene produces SASPS, which bind to the bacterial DNA and effectively turn it off, so that it can then be removed from the body by the immune system.

The funding will support the progression of SASPject PT3.9 through clinical trials.

“Phico’s innovative approach delivers the antibiotic effect of SASPs by using engineered bacteriophages to precisely target P. aeruginosa infections in the lungs,” said Erin Duffy, R&D chief of CARB-X. “This approach has the potential to target bacteria without damaging other cells, and without contributing to the rise of resistance.

“If successful, this new intravenous drug could transform the way patients with ventilator-associated pneumonia are treated in hospitals, and save lives.”

The first grant of £3.8m will be followed by up to £9.4m in milestone payments.

The Phase I clinical trials for SASPject PT3.8 will be first-in-man, intravenous studies and will focus on establishing the safety and kinetics of PT3.9 in healthy volunteers and, potentially, patients with ventilated hospital acquired pneumonia and ventilator associated pneumonia.

P. aeruginosa is a leading cause of pneumonia in hospital patients, especially those on a ventilator. The increasing incidence of strains showing multi-drug antibiotic resistance has resulted in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classifying P aeruginosa as a serious threat to human health.

With antimicrobial resistance also listed as a Top 3 Global Health Threat by the World Health Organisation, the SASPject platform could provide a new range of innovative antibiotic treatments to help overcome this challenge.

Dr Heather Fairhead, Phico founder and CEO, said: “To receive funding from CARB-X is important validation for our SASPject technology platform and its potential in fighting bacterial resistance.

“It has been awarded at the end of a thorough due diligence process which reinforces the credibility of the company and our team – I am delighted to now look forward to progressing our lead product to clinical trials and developing a product pipeline that will advance the science of antibacterial therapy and in time, save millions of lives round the world.”

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