The Swiss biotech company is making significant progress in the research and development of treatments to fight bacterial resistance, a real and present Global Health issue.
Médias France, 31/12/2018
BioVersys has been striving to make new drugs effective against bacterial infections. Antibiotics are among the most important and oldest medical discoveries, saving millions of lives each year. But today, their effectiveness is threatened, because bacteria have learned to adapt and resist almost all of our current antibiotics. Located in the Technology Park in the thriving biotech hub of Basel, the Swiss drug discovery company BioVersys focuses on 4 pipeline projects, two of which will soon enter the clinical development phase. Nosocomial (hospital) infections and Tuberculosis are the targeted illnesses, for which the team develops new compounds that are effective even against the most resistant bacteria. Why these diseases? Because they are life-threatening: severe drug-resistant hospital infections cause around 33,000 deaths yearly in Europe and although Tuberculosis is less common than in the Developing World, it still caused 32,000 deaths in Europe in 2015, as well as globally killing 1.5 million people each year. Worryingly with both hospital infections and Tuberculosis the deadliest multidrug-resistance (MDR) forms of the bacteria are found in Southern and Eastern Europe, Russia, India and China.
HARMFUL BACTERIA KNOW NO BORDERS
Dr Marc Gitzinger, founder and CEO of the company, obtained his PhD in biotechnology from ETH Zurich. During his research, he realized that bacterial gene regulation systems had an important impact on antimicrobial resistance (AMR), the initial basis for creating the company, BioVersys, and transforming this discovery into a drug development company. Thanks to his strong scientific background and entrepreneurial mindset, he has successfully raised money and created a sustainable biotech which is now trusted by many partners, such as GlaxoSmithKline and the Pasteur Institute in Lille.
With the evolution of MDR bacteria responsible for today’s deadly diseases such as Tuberculosis and hospital acquired infections, new treatments are desperately needed to replace the old ineffective antibiotics of the past. This has become an increasing global health issue, running parallel with the rise of migration and long-distance travel, where resistant bacteria travel and spread inadvertently around the globe. If we do not have new medicines to fight them, the scenario is dramatic, as reports predict by 2050 there will be more casualties caused by resistant bacterial infections than all cancer types together (>10 million annually).
FROM BENCH TO PATIENT, A MULTI-YEAR JOURNEY
To date, BioVersys has raised and invested more than 20 m€ in R&D to combat antimicrobial resistance and although has remained lean with only 13 employees, they have opened a French subsidiary in Lille, fostering greater collaboration with the Pasteur Institute, and have established strong ties with the pharmaceutical drug development giant GlaxoSmithKline, focusing efforts on one of its pipeline projects. By 2020, BioVersys will initiate the clinical phase for the two most advanced projects: Tuberculosis and severe hospital acquired pneumonia. “It is a huge milestone for the company”, Marc Gitzinger explains, “as we finally move from research to clinical development: the accumulation of several years of innovation efforts will soon result in our experimental medicines being progressed to humans.” Before entering the market, treatments must indeed go through clinical development in humans, which takes about 5-6 years, as it is essential to ensure that the experimental drugs are proven to be safe and effective in humans. Meanwhile, further research is taking its course in BioVersys laboratories in Basel: the team is also working on microbiome projects, a new area of scientific interest. The human microbiome where all the bacteria naturally present in the human body exist, is now recognized as hugely important for our health and well-being. BioVersys are expanding their innovative technology to target specific “bad” bacterial behaviours that imbalance the natural healthy microbiome and thus lead to chronic inflammatory diseases.
BEST BIOTECH INNOVATION OF THE YEAR
The strong science and underlying technology of BioVersys has enabled the company to win several technology awards in Switzerland, and the international, 2016 Universal Biotech Innovation Prize, which highlights the world’s most innovative projects in the field of health. This track-record of success has allowed BioVersys to raise significant money and foster a successful partnership with GlaxoSmithKline. The company has several exciting AMR projects in the pipeline and will soon launch a Series B financing round to support the development of their innovative projects in this huge unmet medical need area of drug-resistant bacterial infections.
BioVersys aims to offer patients new therapeutic alternatives to combat antimicrobial resistance, as our modern medicine and life expectancy relies on successfully winning this battle.