Bugworks raises $9M Series A funding to develop antibiotics to fight superbugs

13th Aug 2018
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The Series A funding and the CARB-X award will enable Bugworks to take its drugs to clinical trials, and find new ways to fight the global threat of drug resistance.

In a significant development for the Indian startup ecosystem, Bengaluru and Delaware (US)-based drug research company Bugworks has raised $9 million in Series A funding. The company that designs antibiotics has announced that the funding round was led by University of Tokyo Edge Capital (UTEC), Japan, with syndication from Acquipharma Holdings, 3ONE4 Capital, and other prominent biotech-focused global angels.

Founded in 2014, Bugworks’ novel bacterial topoisomerase inhibitor (NBTI) is highly effective against a very broad spectrum of multi-drug resistant bacterial pathogens. This potent first-in-class antibiotic was designed using ELUDE, Bugworks’ proprietary efflux-pump avoidance platform. ELUDE enables the design of novel and differentiated antibiotics to cure hospital, community, and bio-threat infections.

Founders of Bugworks: V Balasubramanian, Anand Anandkumar, and Santanu Datta

Bugworks’ NBTI is a dual target small molecule inhibitor, with very low potential to create resistant strains, effective against all pathogens on the WHO Critical, High and Medium priority list, as well as bio-threat bacterial pathogens identified by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC).

To understand it better, imagine your friend is recovering after an operation. A post-operative infection - it could be a hospital-acquired infection - usually develops because of superbugs that can harm the patient.

The Centre for Disease Control and Infection says that it has recorded 1.7 million hospital-acquired infections every year. In the US alone, 20,000 people die every year due to such infections. According to the Mayo Clinic: “Superbug is a term used to describe strains of bacteria that are resistant to the majority of antibiotics commonly used today. Resistant bacteria that can cause pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and skin infections are just a few of the dangers we now face. Antibiotic resistance is a naturally occurring phenomenon that can be slowed, but not stopped. Over time, bacteria can adapt to the drugs that are designed to kill them and change to ensure their survival. This makes previously standard treatments for bacterial infections less effective, and in some cases, ineffective.”

Going after superbugs

Bugworks is practically going after these superbugs, antibiotics for which were last developed in the sixties.

“The rise of Anti-microbial Resistance (AMR) is an urgent global issue that needs to be tackled on war footing. Bugworks addresses the AMR crisis by creating a new class of antibiotics targeting all known classes of multi-drug resistant bacteria. We would like to promote collaborative developments through strong relationship between Bugworks, and the Japan Bio Ecosystem for driving global innovation in this field,” said Dr Atsushi Usami, Partner at UTEC. After the new round of funding, Dr Usami will join the Board of Directors of Bugworks.

“CARB-X funds the best science around the world to address drug resistance. We are pleased to see this Series A investment following the CARB-X award,” said Kevin Outterson, Executive Director of CARB-X, which has awarded Bugworks  up to $6.2 million to support the project.

“This financing is yet another strong endorsement for our team and technology, as we bring reputed global investors on board to aid our mission of defeating ‘superbug’ infections,” said Dr Anand Anandkumar, CEO of Bugworks.

“The money will allow us to take one asset to clinical trials and one more backup asset through the pre-clinical pipeline,” he said.

The investors

UTEC is a Tokyo-based early-stage VC, with over $500 million in assets under management, linked closely with University of Tokyo and other academic institutions. UTEC invests in seed/early-stage startups that solve global issues for humankind using science and technology.

Acquipharma Holdings South Africa, started by former C-suite executives from Quintiles Corporation, has vast experience in the life science industry, especially in the area of running global clinical trials.

3one4 Capital is an early-stage venture capital fund based in Bengaluru, India. It is also an investor in YourStory. The focus areas for this fund include machine-driven actionable intelligence services for the enterprise, enterprise automation, ambient intelligence technologies, fintech, consumer data strategies, media and content development, and health.

AMR is a global health emergency impacting millions across the world. The need to bring forth new antibiotics is urgent and Bugworks, with its years of domain experience and through its innovative approaches, has an exciting portfolio of broad-spectrum novel antibiotic assets at various stages of discovery and preclinical development.

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