Bugworks: Designing Novel Biopharmaceutical Assets to tackle untreatable Superbugs!

Drug-resistant bacteria will be able to outfox the world’s entire arsenal of antibiotics. Common infections would then become untreatable. Unfortunately, the overuse of Antibiotics coupled with lack of innovation in finding new Antibiotics has led to a frightening development called as SUPERBUGS – the drug-resistant strains of bacteria that only respond to our most powerful antibiotics, or in some cases, to no antibiotic, and the problem is getting worse.

Birth of Bugworks to solve problems with the lack Innovation in the Antibacterial space:

Bugworks is a startup based out of Bangalore India, focused on designing new Anti-infective solutions that are aimed at curing infections caused by deadly bacterial Superbugs.

The impetus behind building Bugworks is the LARGE unmet need all over the world, for novel antibiotics that can tackle ‘Superbugs’ that are claiming 100’s of thousands of lives all over the world. The last new antibiotic happened in the 1980’s. This, coupled with the lack of innovation and heavy abuse of Antibiotics all over the world, has caused the bugs to mutate and become  unkillable by existing Antibiotics. 30% of all deaths in the ICU can now be attributed to untreatable infections.

Bugworks is inspired by this large global unmet need and also by the sad fact that more than half of all the global hospital infections and deaths happen in India. In our country, we lose more than 60,000 new born babies to incurable infections and a staggering 2-Lakh people to various forms of hospital acquired infection.

The co-founder and CEO of Bugworks;

Dr. Anand Anandkumar, received his BE in Electronics and Communication from CEG, Anna University, India and a MS & PhD in Electrical and Biomedical engineering from George Washington University in Washington D.C. His background spans Semiconductor Physics to Computational biology. Having been involved with several startups, he sits on the boards of several companies, all catering to the healthcare segment. Prior to Bugworks, Anand has held some major global directional and managerial roles in various prominent firms including Cellworks, Spin-Circuit, Magma Design Automation India and Escape Velocity Accelerator.

Anand is a member of the prestigious Eta-Kappa-Nu and Tau-Beta-Pi International Engineering honors societies and is the co-inventor on patents ranging from Satellite communication, Pharmaceuticals to Clean Energy. He served as a member of the Executive Council and was Gen-Sec of ABLE (2012-2015), and is a co-founder and ex-Vice Chairman of the India Semiconductor Association (IESA). Anand is also a chartered member of TIE and member of the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce. He is involved with several philanthropic causes and is the founder-trustee of CHILD home in Chennai, India.

Revolutionary Spectrum of Anti-infective products:

Bugworks is designing new Antibiotics that can kill incurable superbugs, which are causing havoc in the hospital environment. Drug discovery is a complex process that requires innovation and process both in equal measure. Dr. Anandkumar explains, “We thought that many processes could be automated by using simulation (also called Insilico) models and deep industry experience. We are a team that is comprised of professionals from diverse backgrounds including Microbiology, Pharmacology, Electrical Engineering, Molecular Biology, Computational Mathematics, Biochemistry, etc. It’s the bringing together of these top-notch talents from various disciplines, putting them in an ecosystem provided by Bangalore, that allows us access to labs in CCAMP (located inside NCBS, GKVK Yelahanka) and superbug-bacterial-strains from St. John’s Hospital and Narayana Health, that allows us to innovate in such non-linear and unprecedented ways. The way in which we simulate bacterial behaviors in colonies gives us a deep understanding of the mechanisms behind drug-resistance, and this drives our design philosophy”

“Our business model is to design a pipeline of Antibiotic assets, bake the IP’s and sell the IP when our compounds show Proof of Concept in man, which in pharma parlance in post Phase IIa. It’s almost all cash burn in the initial years, with payoffs to come from year five onwards.” says Anand.

 Bugworks’ Uniqueness

Drug discovery startup is a high-risk, high return investment. In this binary world, there are hardly any competitors in India, and globally there would be below 20 companies in the similar landscape.

With superbugs, the toughest variety is called Gram-negative (as opposed to Gram positives that are relatively easy to deal with). There are less than ten companies globally that have a novel antibiotic to handle Gram negatives and Bugworks is one of them. Bugworks has designed several Antibacterial compounds that are going through Animal testing at this point. They are hoping to enter human testing within two years from now; if proven successful in humans, they’d have a compound that would be of a global breakthrough nature!

Innovating to Secure the Future

Due to the paucity of new drugs and the lack of private investment, US and EU Governments are pumping in 100’s of millions of dollars to help small companies solve this global problem. The govt. funding is through competitive grants and is non-dilutive, and Bugworks is well primed to win some of these prestigious grants. Many incentives are coming from governments all over the world to promote R&D and also make the regulatory environment better for companies to be able to launch antibiotics. This in turn is spurning interest in this area from VC’s, Hedge-funds and other financial channels.

Bugworks’ Global Advisory Board:

“Our global advisory body has some of the most famous names in the Antibiotics (Pharma, Science, and Policy) area both in India and globally; these advisors have been able to connect us with the most important ecosystems in the world, that will allow us to accelerate our R&D and move to human testing in couple years from now” assures Anand.

 Bugworks’s Awards

  • Top startup in IT/BT sector 2016 (Biopharmaceutical) –  Startup Karnataka Top Tech Award (Department of IT/BT, GOK)
  • Business Excellence and Achievement Award for Entrepreneurs 2016 – 1000 Petals & CNBC TV
  • EN-ABLE Startup Award for excellence in Biopharmaceutical Sector 2016 – instituted by Association for Biotech Led Enterprises (ABLE)
  • Won 3 grants from GOI Department of Biotech (DBT) – BIG (2015), BIPP I (2016), BIPP II (2016)
  • Earned a science grant from UK BBSRC – 2015
  • Shortlisted for CARB-X grant, global excellence in Antibiotics – result awaited in mid-May 2017

Source :- The 30 Best Startup Companies