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Technology to beat Super-bugs wins major new Funding

Scientists at Biocontrol, leading the world in developing new treatments to cure serious antibiotic-resistant infections, have secured a £250,000 investment from The Capital Fund.

This is part of a funding round totalling £500,000, with the rest of the funding coming from existing Biocontrol shareholders. Established in 2002, The Capital Fund is a £50 million venture capital fund that backs fast growing small and medium-sized companies in the Greater London area, and is the largest of the nine UK regional venture capital funds.

Biocontrol has already been recognised for its innovation and expertise, recently winning a prestigious Research and Development Grant Award from the London Development Agency.

Set up in 1997, Biocontrol has been developing the clinical use of bacteriophages - literally “eaters of bacteria” - that attack dangerous infection-causing bacteria, especially in hospitals. First discovered in the early 20th century, bacteriophages, or phages, are naturally occurring viruses that attack and destroy harmful bacteria. They are highly specialised, usually attacking only specific strains of a single species of bacteria.

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Biocontrol’s Chief Scientific Officer, Dr David Harper, said: “The emerging crisis of resistance to antibiotics has led to renewed interest in other methods of controlling bacterial infections. We already have a product to control one type of bacterial infection in clinical trials - phages have real potential to combat many different antibiotic-resistant infections.”

Chemical antibiotics have been one of the great medical successes of the past century. But high levels of inappropriate prescribing and over-use of antibiotics in agriculture has led to a rapid and widespread development of drug-resistant bacteria. The problems posed by “superbugs”, bacteria that are immune to many regular medical antibiotics, is one that is a major concern for patients, doctors and all health professionals. Such is the ability of the bacteria to develop drug immunity that new antibiotics are in many cases becoming ineffective far more rapidly than drugs can be developed.

As phages attack only very specific bacteria, they can be a far more efficient method of bacterial control than broad-spectrum antibiotics. Dr Harper said: “Phages act like a stiletto, eliminating only the dangerous bacteria. We can identify the bacteria that are causing the disease or infection and target them with phages that will kill those bacteria and only those bacteria. This contrasts favourably with the blunt instrument approach of broad-spectrum antibiotics, which can kill a wide range of bacteria, including those that help the body. This can then leave the body open to other dangerous infections, for example, the emerging superbug C. difficile.”

Biocontrol has already successfully completed veterinary trials of its first product - a topically applied phage treatment that controls the Pseudemonas aeruginosa bacteria. Clinical trials with human patients are well underway, with positive initial results.

Dr Harper commented: “The investment from The Capital Fund will support the existing clinical trials and allow us to move forward with development of new products, including aerosol-applied treatments. There is a global need for these new medicines.”

Biocontrol’s Chairman, Dr Caroline Williams, was closely involved in the funding round. She said: “We are delighted to have secured this funding from The Capital Fund that will allow us to continue developing our product range and maintain our rapid progress. The Capital Fund has invested at a very exciting time in our development and we certainly appreciate the Fund’s willingness to support us.”

Dr Williams is also chairman of BC Capital, Biocontrol’s financial advisors who provided crucial support throughout the funding process.

Ed Simpson, Investment Manager at The Capital Fund, said: “We are delighted to be working with Biocontrol. David Harper’s team have developed some amazing products with clearly enormous potential. This investment is particularly pleasing for us as the end benefits, not just for the company and its backers but for millions of patients worldwide, could be very significant. We look forward to following Biocontrol’s progress with interest.”

Margaret Henry | alfa
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Further reports about: Biocontrol Fund Funding phage trials

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