22 ONE Novabiotics March 2019 Grant Anderson 1144X560 (1)

Despite anti-infectives being historically unattractive to investors, Dr Deborah O’Neil forged ahead with her spin-out NovaBiotics Ltd in 2004. Here, she shares how the team has secured over £28m investment and put themselves in a strong position to serve the global unmet need for novel antimicrobial strategies that are now urgently required.

Tell us a bit about your business? When and why was it established, what does it offer and to whom?

NovaBiotics was founded by our CEO, Dr Deborah O’Neil in 2004, spinning out of the University of Aberdeen’s Rowett Research Institute, with a lead product for fungal nail infections. A leading clinical-stage biotechnology company, NovaBiotics is focused on the design and development of first-in-class anti-infectives for difficult-to-treat, medically unmet diseases.


How has the company developed?

We have expanded to two drug platforms and a broad pipeline of drug candidates addressing infectious and respiratory disease. We are currently specifically focused on the global, unmet needs in antimicrobial resistance (AMR), COVID-19, fungal disease and cystic fibrosis. Our research team has doubled, and we have opened offices in the US and the Republic of Ireland.


What is the ethos behind the company and has this changed or developed since you started?

From our inception, we have always used ‘smart immunology’ to develop treatment candidates for poorly served infectious and respiratory diseases. We develop therapies based on the natural infection-fighting agents that are produced by the body’s immune system in response to infection or inflammation. This is an ‘informed’, biology-led drug development strategy that should not only increase the chances of clinical success, but also reduce the chances of side effects.


What’s the business’ USP?

Our smart immunology approach also promotes a lean business model for drug discovery. We’ve come so far on so little investment relative to our field. We have been able to take some essential first steps to tackle bacterial, viral and fungal infections with a range product candidates developed from two proprietary technology platforms.


What investment have you sourced for the business and how has this helped you to go further?

As a pre-revenue drug development research and development company, we have raised £25.4m of investment from a mix of private and venture capital, and £3.5m grant funding and contracts from the Department of Health and Social Care, Scottish Enterprise, and Innovate UK. We are receptive to discussions on raising further capital with potential new investors.


What is the most important thing to remember when applying for funding/investment?

Persevere - it takes time. Establish relationships and maintain contact even with funders who initially say no. Their focus and circumstance may change as you continue to develop the business. Don’t burn bridges!


UMi is currently running its Go Further campaign, which celebrates organisations with the 'foresight to inform and respond to the changing world around them'. How does your organisation fulfil this?

In 2020 NovaBiotics were able to respond dynamically to the need for an effective treatment for COVID-19, and secured UK government funding to support the manufacture of Nylexa® to the point of being phase three trial-ready in less than 12 months.


What has been your company’s greatest achievement?

NovaBiotics has persevered and even maintained an upward trajectory even when anti-infectives were not seen as ‘attractive’ by the investment community. We are now well placed to serve the global unmet need as it is now recognised that novel antimicrobial strategies are urgently required; now more than ever.

Related campaign: 

The Go Further Investment Index is an opportunity to engage, showcase and celebrate progressive businesses who are pushing through and achieving their aspirations through access to investment, impactful collaborations, and the foresight to inform and respond to the changing world around them.

It is open to Northern Powerhouse and Scotland-based businesses of all sizes and from all sectors, but we are particularly interested in businesses operating within bio-science, health tech, clean energy, decarbonisation, circular economy, data and digitisation, space and satellite, tech, AI and advanced manufacturing.

For more info visit www.gofurtherindex.co.uk.

Contributed by Dr Deborah O'Neil
Neina Sheldon
Article by Neina Sheldon
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