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The UK government commissioned report published in 2016 by Jim O’Neill, highlights the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). This is particularly evident for Gram negative bacteria, where resistance is now emerging to even last resort antibiotics, such as colistin. The report suggests that unless action is taken, the global burden of deaths from AMR could balloon to 10 million lives each year by 2050. 

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.


Phico Therapeutics is a biotechnology company developing a novel platform technology which it believes could form the basis for a new generation of antibiotics to overcome antibacterial 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 over £22 M from business angels, venture investment, 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:

  • The unique mode of action of SASP makes it unlikely the bacteria will be able to develop resistance to this anti-bacterial protein
  • SASPject technology can be used to target any selected bacteria, individual or multiple bacterial species or genera, including those that are multi-antibiotic resistant.
  • Unlike conventional antibiotics, SASPject has no effect on any bacteria other than those at which it is targeted. Normal skin and gut bacteria (“good bacteria”) are unharmed.
  • SASPject target specificity prevents the release of toxins and other inflammatory cell components from non-target bacteria thus potentially minimising associated side effects.
  • SASPject has the potential to limit the further spread of antibiotic resistance genes and to shrink the current antibiotic resistance pool


SASPject™ PT3

SASPject™ PT3 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. The increasing incidence of P. aeruginosa of strains showing multi-drug resistance against commonly used first-line antibiotics has resulted in the U.S. CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) classifying P. aeruginosa as a serious threat to human health. The PT3 project has been supported by Innovate UK.

SASPject™ PT4 and PT5

SASPject™ PT4 and SASPject™ PT5 are being developed for systemic (intravenous) use against both Klebsiella pneumoniae and Escherichia coli  respectively. 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. PT4 and PT5 projects are supported by a Wellcome Translation Award.

SASPject™ PT1.2

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.



Dr Heather Fairhead


Dr Fairhead has over 20 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 in sales and marketing in a wide range of industries.

Tony Martin
Dr Anthony MartinCHAIRMAN

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.

Allan Hirst

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.

Bob Nolan 2

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.

JC Picture April 18

Microbiologist with over 10 years' experience in the biotech and anti-infectives industry; Biocontrol Ltd (Ampliphi Biosciences)




Cambridge 105: Suzie Thorpe CEO of Phico Therapeutics, Dr Heather Fairhead talks to Suzie Thorpe about a new generation of antibiotics


Press Release: Phico Therapeutics appoints Financial Director and two NonExecutives


Innovate UK award Phico Therapeutics awarded Innovate UK funding


The Mail on Sunday 11 March 2018 New investment in Phico Therapeutics


The Naked Scientists Interview: Little Pharma, off the beaten track Dr Heather Fairhead, Interview with The Naked Scientists - "Little Pharma: Off the beaten track"


BBC Radio Cambridgeshire - Morning Show: Dr Heather Fairhead, Phico's CEO, talks to Dotty McLeod about PT3


Press Release: Phico moves forward with global fight against antibiotic resistant ‘superbugs’, raising more than £3.5M to take its lead PT3 program into the clinic.


Press Release: Phico Appoints Dr Nicki Thompson as CBO


BBC Radio Cambridgeshire. Dr Heather Fairhead, Phico's CEO, talks to Dotty McLeod on the Breaksfast Show during World Antibiotic Awareness Week 2015.


BBC 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.


Press Release: Phico Therapeutics Receives Translation Award To Advance Its SASPject™ PT4 aimed at Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae Towards Clinical Trials


The Guardian: Scientist raises £750,000 to develop weapon against MRSA


Andie 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.


BBC 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.


Cambridge Business: Article on Dr Heather Fairhead, Phico's CEO.


Wired Magazine: Phico Therapeutics and its technology features in the pages of Wired Magazine.


Dr Heather Fairhead, CEO of Phico Therapeutics, talking to Suzie Thorpe about a new generation of antibiotics. Find… https://t.co/O9TZcDnEx9
Tomorrow, the 14th of February, @PhicoTX CEO Heather Fairhead will be a guest on @cambridge105 Radio at 10h30 focus… https://t.co/esy1X8g4Si
“If this trial is successful then it could have global implications for reimbursement of antibacterials.” Heather F… https://t.co/3CyBmgfHtt


If you are interested in learning more about what we do, or have general enquiries:

+44(0)1954 741040


Phico Therapeutics Ltd, Bertarelli, Building, Bourn Hall, High Street, Bourn, Cambridgeshire, CB23 2TN .



For media enquiries please contact:

Consilium Strategic Communications

Mary-Jane Elliott: +44(0)203 709 5702

Jessica Hodgson: +44(0)203 709 5703


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