Cambridge, UK-based Phico Therapeutics has been awarded a grant of up to £13.2m ($18.2m) to take its lead antibacterial therapy through Phase I clinical trials.

The grant comes from Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator (CARB-X), a global non-profit partnership seeking to accelerate antibacterial research against the growing threat of drug-resistant bacteria.

The funds will be used to support the advancement of Phico’s lead product – SASPject PT3.9 – through clinical trials, with £3.8m available immediately and a further £9.4m contingent on reaching certain project milestones.

Phico’s SASPject PT3.9 is designed for the intravenous treatment of hospital infections caused by the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa.

The product was developed using Phico’s SASPject platform, which uses unique antibacterial small acid-soluble spore proteins (SASP) targeting selected bacterial species to inactivate bacterial DNA, disabling them from metabolising or reproducing.

The Phase I clinical trials will focus on establishing the safety and kinetics of PT3.9 in healthy volunteers and potentially in patients with ventilated hospital acquired pneumonia and ventilator associated pneumonia.

To receive funding from CARB-X is important validation for our SASPject technology platform and its potential in fighting bacterial resistance,” said Heather Fairhead, founder and chief executive officer of Phico.

“It has been awarded at the end of a thorough due diligence process which reinforces the credibility of the company and our team - I am delighted to now look forward to progressing our lead product to clinical trials and developing a product pipeline that will advance the science of antibacterial therapy and in time, save millions of lives round the world,” she added.

P. aeruginosa is a leading cause of pneumonia in hospital patients, with the increasing rate of strains showing multi-drug antibiotic resistance resulting in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classifying this bacterium as a ‘serious threat to human health’.