By Kristy Dorsey

A Scottish life sciences firm is set to nearly double its workforce as it prepares for commercial launch of its technology to tackle microbial threats that pose risks to human health and agricultural production.

Glasgow-based Fixed Phage has secured £2.4 million in fresh funding to upgrade its facilities at the West of Scotland Science Park, where it is trebling space to 3,000sq ft with the addition of a pilot plant to facilitate large-scale customer trials. It also expects to add between eight and 10 scientists and technologists to its existing staff of 12 within the next few months.

The new money has been raised from existing backers Scottish Enterprise and London & Scottish Investment Partners, along with a new lead private investor. It takes the total raised to date by Fixed Phage to approximately £4m.

Set up in 2010, the company’s patented solution is based on the work of Professor Mike Mattey of the University of Strathclyde and has wide-ranging potential, including treating infections that demonstrate antibiotic resistance. Other applications include extending the shelf-life of food by decreasing bacteria levels, and replacing antibiotics and chemicals currently used in animal feed.

The Herald: David BrowningDavid Browning

Chief executive David Browning said the technology uses bacteriophages, an abundant type of virus that infect bacteria and other one-cell organisms.

Completely harmless to plants, animals and humans, phages remove problem bacteria while leaving the rest intact. The company’s technology binds phage to almost any surface, extending the antibacterial activity of natural phage from days to years.

“Phages are the natural predators of bacteria,” he said. “Every two days, half of the bacteria on the planet are destroyed by phages.

“The challenge is that they are not very stable, so we ‘fix’ them so they can be deployed in a variety of ways.”

The technology has been through proof of concept in several applications, including prolonging the life of bagged salads, personal care for acne and other skin disorders, E-coli infection in animals, and other veterinary uses. This has progressed into field trials, Mr Browning said, with some expected to reach the commercial stage “within the next few months”.

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“The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted to governments, regulators and industry the importance of addressing microbial threats,” he added.

“We are delighted that current and new investors share the confidence in our teams’ ability to impact these challenges with our proprietary technology.”

Among members of the Fixed Phage board is non-executive Jim Reid, co-founder of life sciences investment fund ChimaeraBio. The fund has been involved with some of Scotland’s most successful life sciences companies such as: Haptogen, acquired by Wyeth Pharmaceuticals in 2007; Qnostics, acquired by BBI Holdings in 2006; and D3 Technologies, now part of Renishaw.

“Currently there is strong investor interest in companies that are developing tools to combat antimicrobial resistance, and in the UK life sciences sector in general,” Mr Reid said. “Fixed Phage is a company developing the right solutions at the right time, leading the development of game-changing technology as the world focuses on the economic, social and health impacts of disease.”

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Jan Robertson, interim director of growth investments at Scottish Enterprise, said: “Having invested in the company shortly after its inception, we’re delighted to provide Fixed Phage with further investment geared towards deepening its talent pool and enhancing its manufacturing capabilities, accelerating the commercialisation of its ground-breaking anti-microbial technology.

“The life sciences sector makes an increasingly valuable contribution to Scotland’s economy and we hope to see Fixed Phage at the forefront of that for years to come.”

Mr Browning added: “Our focus on sustainability and creating good quality jobs in Glasgow is very important for us.”