Episode #9: Alternatives To Antibiotics – A Talk With Alexander Belcredi, CEO And Founder Of Phagomed | Beginner’s Mind With Christian Soschner

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Key Takeaways

  • Bacterial infections are traditionally treated with antibiotics – but bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to existing antibiotics
  • Antibiotic resistance is described by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development
  • Phage-based pharmaceuticals are making a comeback in the treatment of complex bacterial infections and antibiotic resistance bacteria
  • Phages are viruses that evolved with bacteria to hunt, infect, and kill bacteria with high precision
  • Tips for fundraising and approaching investors: increase visibility, seek feedback, understand your numbers, think about what you will need in 1-2 years
  • Finding the right investor is kind of like dating: “You will meet many people but it doesn’t make sense to start a relationship with every one of them. Ideally, you can choose but you might have to screen a lot of people.”– Alexander Belcredi
  • Questions to ask yourself when fundraising: when is the right time to raise money? how much money do I want to raise? Who are the right investors to bring to the table for each time point?

Introduction

Alexander Belcredi (@AlexBelcredi) is the co-CEO of Phagomed, a life science company developing a novel approach to treat a bacterial infection without antibiotics.  

Christian Soschner chats with Alexander Belcredi, co-founder of Phagomed to discuss the importance of new treatments for bacteria, the investor landscape in the science industry, tips for founders, and challenges to funding.

Host: Christian Soschner (@Sochner)

Understanding Bacteria & Antibiotic Resistance

  • By number, bacteria are the most successful life form on earth
  • Bacteria take advantage of situations and multiply in number
  • We are running out of antibiotics that work, in large part because bacteria are becoming more resistant to existing antibiotics
  • Antibiotic resistance is described by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development
  • Bacteria resistance is a problem because so much of medicine counts on having antibiotics to protect us from infection
  • Few new antibiotics are coming to market and not enough research is being done in the area because of lack of profitability, high cost, length of the process  

What Is A Phage?

  • The natural enemy of bacteria are viruses called phages which have co-evolved to hunt, infect, and kill bacteria
  • Phagomed developed phages to bring to use in patients in whom antibiotics fail
  • Remember, not all viruses are bad: phages are very precise viruses that only infect bacterial cells
  • Phage-based pharmaceuticals have been around for decades and are slowly making a comeback
  • There are two phage-based companies in the U.S. market. There are phase I clinical trials – (1) for treatment of complicated UTIs, (2) for treatment of acne
  • Previously failed phage trials in Asia and Europe were due to failures in storage and distribution which caused phage to become unstable – both issues have now been resolved in new companies
  • Phages have a strong history of anecdotal evidence in Europe but have not been validated according to U.S. standards, placebo randomized-controlled clinical trials

Tips For Fundraising & Approaching Investors In Lifesciences (And Beyond)

  • Increase visibility: be active & out there – share your story, participate in conferences, pitch competitions
  • Seek feedback: approach and meet with investors even when you think or know they won’t invest in your company
  • Identify early versus late-stage investors – but meet everyone for feedback
  • “Feedback is nearly as important as the money.” – Alexander Belcredi
  • Use feedback to understand what investors are looking for and adjust presentation accordingly
  • You will be asked tough questions: make sure fundamentals are in place and know your numbers – risks, costs, timelines
  • Finding the right investor is kind of like dating: “You will meet many people but it doesn’t make sense to start a relationship with every one of them. Ideally, you can choose but you might have to screen a lot of people.”– Alexander Belcredi
  • You want your early investors to be patient, understand their turnaround will be slow and have a greater risk appetite
  • Think 1-2 years ahead and ask yourself, “what do I need to continue what I’m doing?”

Challenges To Fundraising

  • The most challenging question to answer is “what do you want?”
  • You have to maintain a balance between raising enough money to do what you need – but not excessive amounts
  • Questions to ask yourself: when is the right time to raise money, how much do you want to raise, who are the right investors to bring to the table
  • Knowing when to raise money is more of an art than a science
  • Have a good understanding of when you want to scale again and have solid viability and good data to support scaling

Next Steps For Phagomed

  • Series A funding (target 16 million euros)
  • Extending programs from lab to patients
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