Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a growing problem that threatens the effective prevention and treatment of an increasing range of infections caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi. Resistance to antibiotics is already complicating the fight against diseases such as tuberculosis, AIDS, and malaria.
UK-based biotech startup Procarta Biosystems is developing novel therapies to combat AMR. The startup has raised €1.5 million in new funding from the Novo Holdings REPAIR Impact Fund, which will be used to develop a pipeline of an entirely new class of antibiotic precision medicines from Procarta’s proprietary oligonucleotide-based antimicrobial platform.
Procarta’s lead product, PRO-202, is in preclinical development to treat complicated urinary tract infections (cUTI) and complicated intra-abdominal infections (cIAI). The ESKAPE pathogens (Enterococcus faecium, Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Enterobacter species) are responsible for a significant proportion of cUTIs and cIAIs throughout the world.
Moreover, ESKAPE pathogens represent the greatest risk of antibiotic resistance of all clinical infections. Of particular note are the carbapenem resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), a sub-group of Gram-negative bacteria, e.g. Escherichia coli and Klebsiella species, which are resistant to the carbapenem class of antimicrobials. CRE are often considered as the worst new “superbugs” as these bacteria can kill up to half of the patients who develop bloodstream infections from these pathogens. Worryingly, carbapenem resistance is growing exponentially – resistant Klebsiella rose from 0.6% to 5.4% between 2004 and 2008 in the US, and in Thailand 70% of Pseudomonas infections are carbapenem resistant.
“The REPAIR investment comes in alongside investment from Procarta’s founding investor the UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund (UKI2S), as well as Wren Capital, Meltwind and Development Bank Wales,” said Dr Andrew Lightfoot, PhD, MBA, Chief Executive Officer of Procarta. “The money will be used to progress our lead asset, PRO-202 and to develop our proprietary drug discovery platform to build a pipeline of antimicrobial agents to cover the ESKAPE pathogens.
“If the industry keeps prosecuting the same antibiotic drug targets, we will get the same answers, i.e. growing antimicrobial resistance. At Procarta, we believe it is time to explore novel modalities and targets to precipitate a paradigm shift in antimicrobial research. We are delighted that the REPAIR Impact Fund shares our vision and recognises the potential of Procarta’s novel approach.”
“Procarta’s transcription factor decoy platform is precisely the type of novel modality that we hoped we would find when we launched the fund a year ago,” added Aleks Engel, PhD, Director of the REPAIR Impact Fund. “We see the technology as having immense potential as the basis for new approaches to new therapeutics development in infectious disease and beyond.”