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Start-Up Developing Precision Antibiotics for Resistant Bacteria

Pseudomonas Aeruginosa bacteria

Pseudomonas Aeruginosa bacteria (Public Health Image Library, CDC)

14 Nov. 2023. A company formed earlier this year is developing precision treatments for bacteria resistant to conventional antibiotics, and raising £4.3 million ($US 5.4 million) in seed funds. Glox Therapeutics in Glasgow, Scotland, U.K. is spun-off from labs at University of Glasgow and University of Oxford studying engineered proteins to attack resistant microbes.

Glox Therapeutics designs new treatments for infections from gram-negative bacteria that mutate and are difficult to eradicate with today’s antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance is a continuing threat to public health worldwide, which according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was responsible for 1.2 million deaths in 2019, citing data from The Lancet. Gram-negative bacteria, those with a protective outer membrane, are particularly difficult to control and more likely to become resistant. “Gram” refers to a classification where bacteria either keep (gram-positive) or shed (gram-negative) a test stain on their outer cell membranes.

The technology offered by Glox Therapeutics is based on research by its scientific founders Colin Kleanthous, professor of biochemistry at Oxford and microbiology professor Daniel Walker at University of Glasgow, now at University of Strathclyde, also in Glasgow. Kleinthous and Walker study protein interactions with bacteria, particularly protein molecules called bacteriocins, produced naturally by bacteria to ward off competing microbes. The company is developing synthetic bacteriocins targeting gram-negative bacterial species currently resistant to most antibiotics, but designed not to harm the human microbiome, communities of helpful microbes in the body.

Treatment for ventilator-associated pneumonia

Glox Therapeutics says its first products are addressing Pseudomonas aeruginosa or P. aeruginosa and Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria that are on the World Health Organization’s list of critical drug-resistant bacteria. The company’s expects its lead product to be an intravenous formulation of bacteriocins to treat pneumonia that develops in the lungs of people on ventilators, where bacteria enter through the ventilator tube. And among the company’s bacterial targets are Escherichia coli or E. coli and Acinetobacter baumannii bacteria, also on the WHO critical drug-resistant bacteria list, with treatments for other types of pneumonia, sepsis, and lung infections in people with cystic fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD.

“Our mission,” says Glox Therapeutics CEO James Clark in a company statement, “is to provide physicians and patients with highly potent, targeted antimicrobial therapies that can kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria for which there are diminishing options available for treatment.”

Glox Therapeutics is raising £4.3 million in seed funds, led by the venture investment arm of drug maker Boehringer Ingelheim and Scottish Enterprise that supports technology start-ups in Scotland. The biotechnology company plans to use the proceeds to establish labs in Glasgow and Oxford, and add key staff. “This will enable us to establish laboratories and attract top-tier talent,” adds Clark, “and I’m delighted to lead the team as we embark on our pioneering bacteriocin development program, with the first target being P. aeruginosa.”

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