An Edinburgh-based marine biotech business has been given a £50,000 (€73 000) boost in its bid to scour tidal areas such as rock pools to find and develop new drugs and antibiotics, including a new compound found to be active against the hospital 'superbug' MRSA.
AquaPharm Bio-Discovery - dedicated to marine drug discovery and providing new approaches to 'bio-prospecting' and commercialisation of novel marine compounds - received the award from lottery funded NESTA (the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts). According to the company, today only 5 per cent of the marine environment has been described and it is estimated that between 500,000 - 5,000,000 species (mostly micro-organisms) remain undiscovered, representing a huge potential source of new drug leads.
A key focus of AquaPharm's business is to identify novel compounds active against the hospital 'superbug' MRSA (Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) and in particular to develop its first lead compound active against this bacterium. With resistance to conventional antibiotics increasing, in a market worth £25 billion globally, AquaPharm is hoping to secure development partnerships with pharmaceutical companies.
The company claims that this new venture will also fulfill a particular niche because EU legislation is making it harder to pass synthetically produced compounds into human feed additive markets, favouring naturally derived compounds.
Public demand is also driving manufacturers of cosmetic and feed products to contain natural health giving supplements (antioxidants). AquaPharm is developing technology designed to make natural production of these compounds economically feasible.
Head of AquaPharm Dr Andrew Mearns Spragg said:"Funding by NESTA is an excellent first step to enable the company to expand its portfolio of products in addition to attracting further commercial interest.
The discovery process is very exciting and our technologies and knowledge of the marine biosphere will enable us to find products with a wide range of applications, such as cancer and cardiovascular therapeutics."
The company is seeking to raise further funds of up to £2 million for the research and development of marine-based drugs.