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UK company beats E. Coli with a virus

Phico Therapeutics today announces the successful completion of a funding round raising £1m to continue developing products in their antibiotic platform technology, SASPjectTM, which is specifically designed to combat the problem of antibiotic resistance and bacterial toxin release when treating patients infected with E. Coli.

Patients infected with the microbe responsible for the recent outbreak of E. Coli bacteria in Europe can’t be treated with traditional antibiotics. Most scientists believe they make matters worse because killing the E. Coli pathogen in this way results in the release of more toxin. This demonstrates the crucial need for new technologies that fight bacterial infection.

Phico’s product, SASPject™ PT3.X, deactivates the bacteria and prevents the release of toxins and other inflammatory cell components from both target and non-target bacteria thus potentially minimising toxicity. 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.

Supported by a £1.03m Strategic Translation Award from the Wellcome Trust, Phico Therapeutics recently completed a phase I human clinical trial showing that their anti MRSA product, SASPject™ PT1.2 is safe and well tolerated in healthy human volunteers. Plans for a phase II trial to assess efficacy are already underway.

“Our success in raising funds shows that private support for the commercialisation of biomedical research in the UK is strong” explains Dr Heather Fairhead CEO, Phico Therapeutics. “We are creating a new class of antibiotic that we can use to more effectively treat patients with multi-drug resistant strains of Gram negative bacteria including E. coli, K. pneumoniae and P. aeruginosa.”

SASPject is a novel antibiotic therapy that can be targeted to any bacteria including multi-drug resistant Gram negative bacteria such as E. Coli. The active agent is an antibiotic protein called SASP. SASP works by binding to bacterial DNA and inactivating it. It switches off all primary functions in the bacterial cell and stops it from reproducing, thereby halting the spread of infection. Crucially, SASP can bind anywhere on the DNA so the development of resistance by bacteria is considered unlikely.

SASPject is made from a bacteriophage, a type of virus that specifically infects bacteria. The bacteriophage is modified to carry a gene which encodes SASP directly into targeted bacteria. The bacteria then produce SASP which inactivates them. This delivery vector can be narrow spectrum to target selected individual bacterial species, or broad spectrum to target multiple species or genera of bacteria.

SASPject™ PT3.X is being developed against antibiotic resistant Gram negative bacteria including E. coli, K. pneumoniae and P. aeruginosa. These bacteria can cause serious infections and their resistance to conventional antibiotics is spreading. The SASPject™ PT3.X delivery vector is in development.

by S. C.
13 june 2011, World News > Europe

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