CARB-X had received 800 applications for funding support. It had chosen 50 companies for funding, of which 10 — including Bugworks — had drug candidates with entirely new mechanisms of action. “Obviously, we think very highly of Bugworks,” said Kevin Outterson, executive director of CARB-X.
CARB-X was formed two years ago as a public-private partnership to tackle the rising menace of antibiotic resistance. It has $500 million to invest in the best global science. After two years of funding, it has the largest pipeline portfolio of products to prevent life-threatening infections. Bugworks has a family of drug candidates, from which one is now being funded by CARB-X for pre-clinical development.
Bugworks has raised $11.5 million in equity funding so far. It has received Rs 2 crore from three grants from the department of biotechnology.
Last year, Bugworks got a $2-million grant from CARB-X. It will now receive $3 million from the organisation and stands to bag another $2 million if it goes through the pre-clinical stage successfully. The company had won the top innovator award at the ET Startup Awards last year.
Antimicrobial resistance is becoming a major problem in many countries. Jim O’Neill, a former chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, estimates in a study that resistant bugs will kill 10 million people every year by 2050. Some experts imagine an even graver situation, when widespread resistance makes all existing antibiotics useless.
Bugworks had selected 3,000 strains of bacteria to test its molecules. It functioned as a lean company and used 19 organisations around the world for testing and development.
“We have the robustness of using multiple hands but with each hand not seeing the other,” said V Balasubramanian, cofounder and president of R&D at Bugworks.
Major pharmaceutical companies have moved away from developing antibiotics. Regulatory agencies have not approved a novel antibiotic since 1962. Now, some startups have raised the hopes of the healthcare sector by developing drug candidates with novel mechanisms of action and Bugworks is considered a frontrunner among them.
The Bugworks molecule, which will now enter full-fledged preclinical trials, targets two critical proteins necessary for bacteria to multiply. By hitting two targets at once, Bugworks is hoping to minimise rear-guard action by the bacteria leading to resistance.
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