"We obtained a seed funding round of 500.000 GBP or 794.000 euro over a year ago from the University challenge fund and business angels Helms-Brown. Now it is time to begin the search for more funding so we can reach other significant milestones and get our first drug to phase I/II trials. However, it is a tough funding environment out there at the moment. The financial markets are on the floor and a small biotech company like ours needs all the help it can get to survive and keep going", explained Dr. Milgrom.
Photodynamic therapy is currently a niche treatment for superficial cancers and age related macular degeneration. The process works by injecting a photo-sensitising drug into a patient. The drug spreads throughout the patient's body and accumulates slightly in tumours. A non-heating laser light is then shone onto the tumour. The light activates the drug, which then produces a potent and toxic form of oxygen, killing the tumour. There is little scarring, few side effects, and no drug resistance.
However, the approach does have drawbacks. These include a lack of specificity, low penetration of light into the tissues, low potency, acute and painful skin photo-sensitivity and extended treatment periods. The PhotoBiotics method uses specially designed carriers and new photo-sensitising drugs which are tune to respond to tissue-penetrating red light.
"We have combined targeting and new photo-sensitising drugs to make a kind of light activated guided missile", stated Dr. Mahndra Deonarain, technical director of biochemistry at PhotoBiotics. "An antibody carries the sensitisers to the target, for example a cancer cell or microbe, where they are subsequently activated by the laser. Targeted PDT has much higher specificity for target tissues, higher light penetration, higher potency, very little photo-sensitivity, and it requires fewer treatments overall. In other words, it is a technology with all the advantages of existing PDT but none of the disadvantages", stated Dr. Deonarain.
The competition's aim was to assess and reward start-ups between six and 30 months old that are already in business in the science and technology sectors. The second prize went to Infinitesima Ltd., a spin out from the University of Bristol, United Kingdom, while SCYTL on-line world security from the Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya, Spain won the third prize.