A World Health Organisation report in 2014 makes a clear case that resistance to common bacteria has reached alarming levels in many parts of the world and that in some settings, few, if any, of the available treatments options remain effective for common infections.

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 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:

  • 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™ 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.

SASPject™ PT3.1

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

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


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.

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.

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.

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.

Lucy Block

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.


Over 25 years experience in Pharma and Biotech R&D. VP & Global Head, External Drug Discovery, Roche; Senior Director Business Development, GSK; Drug Discovery Head, Syntaxin; Allergic Mechanisms Head, GSK


Microbiologist with over 10 years’ experience in the Biotech and anti-infectives industy; Biocontrol Ltd (Ampliphi Biosciences)



The antibiotic crisis will be among the subjects discussed at @BBC_Future ’s World Changing Ideas Summit in November
An outbreak of Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae has been reported in the Tallaght Hospital in Dublin, Ireland
Phico receives Wellcome Trust award to develop PT4 for the treatment of K.p. and E.c. infections. See more at


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

+44(0)1223 496755

Phico Therapeutics Ltd, Babraham Research Campus, Babraham, Cambridge, CB22 3AT.


For media enquiries please contact:

Consilium Strategic Communications

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

Jessica Hodgson: +44(0)203 709 5703


If you are interested in a career with Phico Therapeutics, please send your CV and a covering letter to:

Susan Hatley referencing the appropriate job in the subject line.