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19 April, 2021 - 10:44 By Tony Quested

Phico lands up to $18.2m to advance antibacterial therapy

Cambridge biotech business Phico Therapeutics could earn as much as $18.2 million in grant funding and milestone payments from Boston US antibiotics powerhouse CARB-X to advance key technology in the space.

Phico is developing engineered phage technology as the basis of a new generation of antibiotics to overcome antibacterial resistance.

It is being backed by CARB-X (Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator), a global non-profit partnership dedicated to accelerating antibacterial research to tackle the global rising threat of drug-resistant bacteria. 

The first grant is worth $5.3m which will be followed by up to $12.9m in milestone payments.

The funding will support the progression of Phico’s lead product SASPject™ PT3.9 through clinical trials.

The solution has been developed for the intravenous treatment of hospital infections due to 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 inactivate bacterial DNA, stopping them from metabolising or reproducing. 

The Phase I clinical trials 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 U.S. 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.”

Erin Duffy, R & D chief of CARB-X, added: “Phico’s innovative approach delivers the antibiotic effect of SASPs by using engineered bacteriophages to precisely target P. aeruginosa infections in the lungs. 

“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.”

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