We hope the interest in the SASPjectTM project and its significant potential in overcoming E. coli and other sinister ‘hard to kill’ bacteria, will attract additional support from pharmaceutical companies
A Cambridge-based biotech company is leading the fight against potentially fatal bacteria such as MRSA and E. coli, attracting new funding to develop its pioneering treatment which could play a vital role in treating outbreaks such as those in France and Germany.
Phico Therapeutics has recently raised £1 million of further funding to develop a range of medical products based on its novel antibiotic technology, SASPjectTM , which is proving effective in targeting bacteria resistant to conventional antibiotics.
Treating these E. coli food poisoning bacteria with existing antibiotics has proved ineffectual, and is considered by some medical scientists to make matters worse by causing the E. coli pathogen to release more toxins. SASPjectTM PT3.X deactivates bacteria and prevents the release of toxins, halting the infection in its tracks. Unlike conventional antibiotics, SASPject only affects the targeted bacteria, leaving ‘good’ bacteria unharmed.
Dr Heather Fairhead is Chief Executive of Phico Therapeutics based at the Babraham Research Campus near Cambridge:
“There is currently no effective antibiotic treatment for this group of severe food-poisoning types of E. coli, and we are now witnessing the tragic human and economic consequences caused by outbreaks of this infection in Europe. It is vital that we continue to trial and refine these new products and this latest round of funding is extremely welcome. However this is a lengthy process, and we continue to seek partners to enable us to bring them to production. Our aim is to provide safe, effective drugs that will prevent future outbreaks from having such devastating effects,” she said.
Phico has already achieved three fund-raising rounds from its private investors to develop the first SASPject product, SASPjectTM PT1.2, to fight MRSA. Supported by a £1 million strategic award from the Wellcome Trust, the company has successfully completed a clinical human trial that showed the product is safe and well-tolerated in healthy human volunteers. Phase II of this clinical trial to assess its efficacy is scheduled for later this year.
The active agent in SASPject is an antibiotic protein called SASP. It works by binding to bacterial DNA and deactivating it – literally switching off all primary functions in the bacterial cell and stopping it from reproducing. Crucially, SASP can bind to any point on the DNA, making it virtually impossible for the bacteria to develop resistance to it.
A type of virus known to target bacteria is used to carry the SASP gene through the body directly to the infection, delivering it into the bacteria. The active protein, SASP, is then produced by the bacteria themselves, deactivating the cells. The unique SASPject delivery platform can be used to target selected individual bacterial species or a range of multiple species.
Founded in 2000, Phico employs 19 staff in its offices and laboratories at the Babraham Research Campus, part of the Cambridge Biotech hub. The company’s pioneering research and development has now attracted around £10 million funding from private sector investors, including the Wellcome Trust.
“We hope the interest in the SASPjectTM project and its significant potential in overcoming E. coli and other sinister ‘hard to kill’ bacteria, will attract additional support from pharmaceutical companies and venture capitalists to enable Phico to bring these ground-breaking developments to the market over the next few years,” added Dr Fairhead.
Dr Heather Fairhead
Phico Therapeutics Ltd, Babraham Research Campus, Babraham, Cambridge, CB22 3AT
+44 (0)1223 496755, email@example.com, www.phicotherapeutics.co.uk
Notes to Editors
About Phico Therapeutics
With seed funding from Cambridge Research and Innovation Ltd. (CRIL), Phico Therapeutics succeeded in securing several subsequent rounds of funding from both government and private sources. Phico has received 3 DTI R&D Awards to develop the anti-MRSA SASPject system and to adapt SASPject to fight the bacterium Clostridium difficile. The latest £1 M investment is destined to further develop SASPject targeted to multi-drug resistant Gram negative bacteria such as E. coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Klebsiella pneumoniae.
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