Phico Therapeutics is pioneering a radical approach to antibacterial therapy which it believes could form the basis of a solution. By targeting and inactivating the bacterial DNA directly, irrespective of its sequence, mutations in the bacterial DNA don’t prevent SASP from working. Phico’s SASPject products can directly tackle the genetic cause of antibiotic resistance.
The company, founded in Cambridge by Dr Heather Fairhead, is built around the SASPject™ platform, which utilises a unique anti-bacterial protein, SASP, which targets and deactivates bacterial DNA stopping bacteria from metabolising or reproducing. Phico has raised almost £16 M from business angels, high net-worth individuals, the Wellcome Trust and Government grants. Phico’s goal is to advance the science of antibacterial therapy to help overcome the problem of bacterial resistance.
Our SASPject™ platform delivers pan-spectrum anti-bacterial proteins called small acid-soluble spore proteins, or SASPs, to selected bacterial species using targetable nano-delivery vehicles (NDVs). SASPject™ works by injecting a gene that encodes SASP directly into the targeted bacteria. The injected gene then produces SASPs, which bind to bacterial DNA and inactivate it. SASPs “turn off” DNA so the targeted bacterial cell cannot metabolise or reproduce. The immune system can then remove the bacteria from the body.
SASPs bind to all bacterial DNA, irrespective of the sequence of that DNA. Spontaneous mutations in DNA, or the import of new DNA that gives new characteristics to the bacterial cell, are key ways in which bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics. Neither of these strategies affects the ability of SASP to bind to and inactivate bacterial DNA.
This approach has the potential to provide a number of significant advantages over traditional antibiotics:
SASPject™ PT1.2 targets Staphylococcus aureus, including MRSA. MRSA infections are now a global problem in hospitals, with thousands of fatalities recorded as a result of their presence, and their control is vital to many national health systems. SASPject™ PT1.2 will be used for the intra-nasal decolonisation of the bacteria. A Phase I clinical trial has been successfully completed.
SASPject™ PT3.1 is being developed against Pseudomonas aeruginosa. These infections can involve any part of the human body, but most commonly cause urinary tract, lung, bloodstream, wound/burn, and intra-abdominal infections. P. aeruginosa is responsible for a number of hospital-acquired infections with its incidence in intensive care units having risen sharply and its incidence almost doubling between the mid 1970’s and early 2000’s. Whilst P. aeruginosa bacteria are naturally resistant to many antibiotics, the increasing incidence of strains showing multi-drug resistance against commonly used first-line antibiotics is worrying.
SASPject™ PT4 is being developed for systemic (intravenous) use against both Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae. These bacteria cause a wide range of infections, which can be serious or life threatening as isolates which are resistant to almost all conventional antibiotics continue to spread around the globe, resulting in very poor treatment outcomes.
Dr Heather Fairhead
FOUNDER AND CEO
Dr Fairhead has almost 15 years’ experience directing research teams in a variety of disciplines and has led Phico in developing SASPject technology from a concept through a Phase I clinical trial. Prior to her scientific career, Heather worked for 10 years in sales and marketing in a wide range of industries.
Dr Martin has more than 25 years' experience in providing life science and biotechnology companies counsel on a range of strategic, management and funding issues, including as Chairman of anti-infectives company, NeuTec Pharma plc, where he played a pivotal role in guiding the company’s sale to Novartis for over £300M.
Robert has over 30 years’ experience in big pharma, including from 1989 to end 2004 as Director of Global Licensing at AstraZeneca. Bob is a non-executive director of Epistem Ltd. He gained his Ph.D. in biochemistry from King’s College, London, and completed two post-doctoral fellowships in the US at Dartmouth Medical School and MIT.
Allan spent 24 years with Citigroup, in the last 15 years leading Citibank’s expansion into Central and Eastern Europe, Russia and Central Asia. Allan sits on the Board of the Financial Services Volunteer Corp and will shortly be joining the Board of the Georgia Healthcare Group.
Lucy has almost 20 years’ experience providing business strategy, business development and financing support to a number of start-up and early stage biotechnology companies.
18/11/2015BBC Radio Cambridgeshire. Dr Heather Fairhead, Phico's CEO, talks to Dotty McLeod on the Breaksfast Show during World Antibiotic Awareness Week 2015.
16/11/2015BBC Look East. Dr Heather Fairhead, Phico's CEO, is interviewed as part of an article on antibiotic resistance, during the 2015 World Antibiotic Awareness Week.
09/03/2015Press Release: Phico Therapeutics Receives Translation Award To Advance Its SASPject™ PT4 aimed at Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae Towards Clinical Trials
01/11/2014Wired Magazine: Phico Therapeutics and its technology features in the pages of Wired Magazine.
11/03/2013BBC Radio 5 Live: Interview with Dr Heather Fairhead, Phico's CEO, following the call to arms for development of new antibiotics by Professor Dame Sally Davies, UK Chief Medical Officer.
19/11/2012Andie Harper's Mid Morning Show, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire: Radio Interview with Phico Therapeutics' CEO, Dr Heather Fairhead. Heather discusses the problems we are facing with antibiotic resistant bacteria.