[Funding Alert] Biopharma Start-Up Bugworks Raises $7.5 Mln In Fresh Financing Founded in 2014, the company has been trying to design a completely new class of broad spectrum antibiotics that would be able to fight against increasingly drug resistant bacteria.

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Biopharma start-up Bugworks Research has raised $7.5 million in a fresh round of funding led by Japan's University of Tokyo Edge Capital and Global Brain Corporation. Acquipharma Holdings of South Africa also participated in the round.

Founded in 2014, the company has been trying to design a completely new class of broad spectrum antibiotics that would be able to fight against increasingly drug resistant bacteria.

The company has so far raised $19 million in funding and counts Siddarth and Pranav Pai-led 3one4 Capital among its early investors. "We have completed all our early-stage work and are moving to an important inflection – clinical trials, which if successful, would then require us to raise another round of funds or find a global partner," co-founder and chief executive officer Anand Anandkumar told Entrepreneur India.

Antimicrobial Resistance

According to the World Health Organization, an additional $1.2 trillion would be required in health expenditure per year by 2050 due to increasing antimicrobial resistance (AMR). In a press release earlier this year, the UN agency said that declining private investment and lack of innovation in the development of new antibiotics were undermining efforts to combat drug-resistant infections.

Anandkumar says that after six years of research and development, Bugworks has managed to crack the bacterial superbug and their solution would be able to work against many different types of bacteria from lung pneumonia to kidney infection.

"What's unique about us as a company is that we use a mixture of modeling, simulation and classical pharmaceutical sciences to design a new generation of antibiotics where we are hitting the bacteria at two spots; it's like hitting your enemy on the head and the heart, very hard for the enemy to dodge two bullets," says Anandkumar.

Headquartered in the United States, the entirety of the company's R&D happens in Bengaluru.

In a statement, Yasuhiko Yurimoto, founder-CEO and general partner at Global Brain, said, "As witnessed with COVID-19, infectious diseases are threatening human existence. AMR is a serious issue and Global Brain regards this as a big unmet medical need. We are proud to partner with Bugworks to bring highly differentiated solutions in AMR to the market."

Need For More

Anandkumar also feels that not enough is being done in the field across the world, something that could potentially lead to extremely drug resistant bacteria. And while they possibly wouldn't spread as fast as a virus, the mortality rates would be much higher.

"Step back for a moment and imagine: no new antibiotics in over 30 years, existing ones are failing, number of hospitals are rising quietly as we speak in our backyard, and it's gonna be like a tsunami, by the time it falls to the shore, it is too late. If you then tell the world to create antibiotics, it's too late because it takes 10-15 years to develop a drug."

He believes that there needs to be a lot more patient capital in the space, as a lot of research might not eventually lead to results, and even for those that do, there needs to be a period of at least 7-10 years for any substantial outcome.

"Our ecosystem has changed very positively, different departments are giving grants, we have multiple incubators across the country; all that is great but the biggest problem is we do not have capital," he says.

Going Forward

If the phase one trial is successful, which they would know by early next year, Bugworks would look to partner with global pharmaceutical companies, who can bring in the money and process power to take the assets to the next phase of trials.

"Even if we do a licensing deal, we want to ensure that we keep the India rights with us so that we can accelerate the product for the Indian markets because unmet need is supremely high in India," says Anandkumar.

Debroop Roy

Former Correspondent

Covering the start-up ecosystem in and around Bangalore. Formerly an energy reporter at Reuters. A film, cricket buff who also writes fiction on weekends.

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