Biotech startup nets $3.4M to advance treatments for MRSA, salmonella bacterial infections

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MRSA sporesMRSA is responsible for about 19,000 deaths and 368,000 hospitalizations in the U.S. each year, with annual costs of up to $4.2 billion to treat it, according to Pew Health Initiatives. The staph infection is resistant to most commonly used antibiotics. It’s just one of the hospital-acquired infections that hospitals are combating. A life science startup has raised fresh capital to advance the development of therapeutics to treat bacterial infections from MRSA to salmonella.

The Malvern, Pa.-based VenatoRx Pharmaceuticals was formed by Christopher Burns, president and chief scientific officer; Daniel Pevear, vice president of biology and grant development;  and Luigi Xerri, chief development officer. They were part of the executive team at Protez, a company that developed antibiotics to combat infections, including hospital-acquired infections.

VenatoRx is picking up where the discovery and development of innovative antibacterial treatments at Protez left off. Novartis acquired Protez in a $400 million acquisition in 2008, including $100 million up front. But in 2010 the technology was shelved and its staff laid off.

The biotech startup raised $3.4 million, according to a Form D document filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. According to the filing, the biotech has nearly 60 investors

In 2010, VenatoRx won a $21.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for its proposal to treat food- and water-borne infections.

Several different life science companies have taken different approaches to combating MRSA:

Other companies are developing ways to diagnose MRSA faster:

Hospital ICUs have also found some success in the way they identify patients with the infection and clean them, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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Stephanie Baum

By Stephanie Baum

Stephanie Baum is the East Coast Innovation Reporter for She enjoys covering healthcare startups across health IT, drug development and medical devices and innovations deployed to improve medical care. She graduated from Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania and has worked across radio, print and video. She's written for The Christian Science Monitor, Dow Jones & Co. and United Business Media.
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Jim Hays
Jim Hays

Do you know "why" Novartis shelved the development ? How did VenatoRX get the rights to pursue the development?