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This Cambridge biotech secured £7M to develop treatments for drug-resistant superbugs

Phico Therapeutics
Image credits: Phico Therapeutics

Phico Therapeutics, a Cambridge-based biotechnology company that develops engineered phage technology as the basis of a new generation of antibiotics to overcome antibacterial resistance, has just announced a £7 million investment round.

How will it use the funds?

The funding round was led by BGF, UK’s most active growth capital investor that invested £3 million along with participation existing investors. Phico Therapeutics will use the funds to support the continued development of its SASPject technology platform and progression of PT3.9, its lead product towards the clinic.

Prior to this investment round, Phico was awarded a grant of up to $18.2 million (nearly £13.2 million) from Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator (CARB-X) to support the development of the SASPject PT3.9. CARB-X is a global non-proflt partnership dedicated to accelerate antibacterial research to tackle the rising threat of drug-resistant bacteria.

Tim Rea, investor at BGF said: “This is an extremely exciting time for Phico Therapeutics, and we are delighted to be partnering with this innovative business and expanding our presence in Cambridge and UK life sciences. BGF’s long-term approach to patient capital is a good match for this dynamic business, which has been at the forefront of building technological solutions to antibacterial resistance for over 20 years. We are thrilled to be working with Dr Heather Fairhead and the management team in helping them to realise the next great milestone for the company.”

Dr. Heather Fairhead, Phico Founder and CEO said: “We are delighted that BGF has made this investment alongside many of Phico’s existing investor base. Coupled with the recent award from CARB-X, these funds will enable the company to exemplify the technology in first in human intravenous studies. This is a very exciting time for Phico and we’re looking forward to great things ahead.”

Alternative to conventional antibiotic treatments

Founded in Cambridge by Dr Heather Fairhead, Phico is building an innovative intravenous antibacterials pipeline focused on serious infections with few existing treatment options and targeting key superbug threats including Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Klebsiella pneumoniae and Escherichia coli.

Phico’s SASPject platform technology utilises engineered bacterial viruses, or phages, to deliver a gene encoding a unique antibacterial small acid-soluble spore protein (SASP) that inactivates bacterial DNA. This stops the bacteria from metabolising or reproducing while the SASP remains unaffected by the sequence of the bacterial DNA including mutations, making resistance unlikely to develop.

Due to the increasing multi-drug resistance, P. aeruginosa is considered a serious threat to human health by the U.S. CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Also, the World Health Organisation (WHO) classified it among the three bacteria needing new treatments. With the bacteria being a leading cause of pneumonia in hospital patients, especially those on a ventilator, the SASPject platform could provide a much-needed alternative to conventional antibiotic treatments.