AvidBiotics Creates Novel Proteins that Kill Bacteria on the Farm, in the Lab, in the Body

9/21/10Follow @xconomy

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were both at a joint venture of DuPont and Merck, then later at Chiron. Martin is the science guy, with longstanding credentials as a former UCSF faculty member and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, while Knighton is a business guy with a Wharton School MBA combined with a master’s degree in genetics.

“It’s a very complementary relationship,” Martin says. “We each have skills that the other hasn’t perfected yet.”

The founders liked the combination of the science and the practical aspects of starting a biotech company in the antibiotics field. In fields like cancer, autoimmune disease, and cardiovascular disease, success in animal models often fails to predict success in humans. But animal tests of antibiotics tend to be a better predictor. That meant they could finance the company step by step, without raising huge amounts of venture capital and ending up burning it all on a dead-end concept.

So far, AvidBiotics has raised a total of $9 million, bit by bit, much of it from government grants. The company has raised a modest $2.6 million in equity from the founders, family, and friends, Knighton says. Doing it this way encouraged disciplined management of the company finances, Knighton says.

“We raised $1 million at a time. We have a lot of skin in this game, and we want to keep our friends and family on our good side,” Knighton says.

Now that AvidBiotics has shown it can make its bacteria-killing proteins, it has started focusing in on specific applications. The initial plan is to go after E. coli O157:H7, the bug that has been known in a few infamous cases to strike via undercooked ground beef.

AvidBiotics has developed a “two-fer” strategy against this nasty diarrhea-causing bug. The initial application is a spray-on formulation that would be used for beef carcasses, spinach, lettuce, or other food products that you’d want to protect. The other formulation, an oral pill, is being … Next Page »

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