Bacteriophage-company Pico Therapeutics backed by CARB-X

Bacteriophage-company Pico Therapeutics backed by CARB-X

  • 19/04/2021

CARB-X is funding Phico Therapeutics, in Cambridge, UK, to develop a new intravenous engineered bacteriophage drug to treat ventilator-associated pneumonia caused by Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a serious problem in hospitals, intensive-care units and health-care settings.

 P. aeruginosa is one of the top three antibiotic-resistant bacteria listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as ‘priority pathogens’ posing the greatest threat to human health. The CARB-X award provides up to $5.3 million to support preclinical development of Phico’s SASPject PT3.9 project, plus up to $12.86 million more if the project progresses successfully through safety to Phase 1 first-in-human clinical studies, subject to available funding.

Phico’s SASPject technology is ground-breaking in that it uses engineered bacterial viruses (bacteriophages) combined with antibacterial small acid-soluble spore proteins (SASPs) to precisely target the P. aeruginosa bacteria and inactivate the bacteria’s DNA, stopping them from reproducing and spreading. Additionally, SASPs are unaffected by the sequence of bacterial DNA, making it unlikely that bacteria could develop resistance, and are therefore effective against multidrug-resistant bacteria.

“Phico’s innovative approach delivers the antibiotic effect of SASPs by using engineered bacteriophages to precisely target P. aeruginosa infections,” said Erin Duffy, R&D Chief of CARB-X, a global non-profit partnership led by Boston University and dedicated to funding and supporting the development of innovative products to address antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. “This approach has the potential to target the bacteria without damaging other cells or 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.”

Patients on ventilators in hospitals and intensive-care units settings often develop pneumonia, which can be life-threatening particularly among intensive-care patients. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that in 2017, multidrug-resistant P. aeruginosa caused 32,600 infections in US hospitals, and 2,700 patients died as a result. P. aeruginosa is also a significant problem in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs); Phico aims to produce a therapy that is accessible to resource-poor settings.

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 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.”

Click here to see a video on Phico’s innovative approach

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