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Antibiotic Developer Adds $9.2 Million in Early Funds

Bacteria growing in petri dishes

(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

3 June 2015. Auspherix Limited, a start-up developer of new antibiotic drugs, raised £6 million ($US 9.2 million) in early-stage venture financing. Funding for the two year-old enterprise, located in a pharmaceutical and biotechnology incubator at Stevenage, U.K., was led by technology commercialization company Imperial Innovations plc, with earlier investor Australia’s Medical Research Commercialisation Fund.

Auspherix is a spin-off company from University of Technology Sydney in Australia, founded in 2013 by Ian Charles and Dagmar Alber to commercialize their research at the university’s ithree institute — for infection, immunity, innovation. Both Charles and Alber relocated to the U.K. — Charles as director of Institute of Food Research and Alber on the staff at Institute of Child Health at University College London — thus the move of Auspherix to the U.K.

The company is developing what it calls a new class of antibiotics with a novel chemical structure, designed to counter the increasing problem of multi-drug resistant bacteria. Among the drugs in discovery, says Auspherix, are compounds that are active against carbapenem-resistant strains of gram-negative bacteria, with infections often contracted in health care facilities, and multi-resistant forms of gram-positive bacteria. “Gram” refers to a classification for bacteria where the microbes either retain (gram-positive) or shed (gram-negative) a test stain on their protective cell coatings.

The company says it plans to apply the new funds to its drug discovery program, including recruitment of scientific and management staff. Identification of final drug candidates is expected in the next two years. While in Australia, Auspherix secured $AU 2 million ($US 1.6 million) in seed and first venture round financing from Medical Research Commercialisation Fund. The new funding is also considered part of the company’s first venture round.

Imperial Innovations, leading the new financing, is the technology transfer office of Imperial College London, but it invests as well in spin-off enterprises from universities of Cambridge and Oxford. The organization also serves as the technology transfer office for several National Health Service trusts in the U.K. In addition to direct investments, Imperial Innovations says it helps form spin-off companies from partner institutions, provides facilities for early-stage operations, and helps recruit management teams and board members.

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