MRSA 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:
- MedDev’s treatment to reduce MRSA nasal colonization is under development.
- AstraZeneca developed an antibiotic to fight MRSA called Zinfor. It was approved for the EU earlier this year.
Other companies are developing ways to diagnose MRSA faster:
- FCubed LLC has produced a portable microfluidics device that can detect the presence of MRSA in fluid samples in less than an hour.
- Molecular Detection’s Detect Ready MRSA diagnostic test to identify MRSA carriers was been cleared by the EU.