Innovative antibiotics research at Tech Park Basel
The Basel-based pharmaceutical company BioVersys is dedicated to the fight against antimicrobial resistance and is developing new antibiotics. Dr Marc Gitzinger, CEO of BioVersys, appreciates Basel as a location.
Dr Gitzinger, what is the vision of BioVersys?
Marc Gitzinger: We want to offer a solution to antimicrobial resistance, also known as the "silent pandemic". It should still be possible to treat bacterial infections the way we humans are used to: with antibiotics that work efficiently and quickly. Without effective antibiotics, many interventions, whether those needed for simple surgeries or for cancer therapies, would be associated with a very high risk. This risk is, unfortunately, becoming commonplace in more and more countries because there are more and more resistant bacteria. New figures show that, on a global scale, antibiotic resistance has increased much more than previously thought.
This year, you have closed a significant financing round of CHF 24.2 million. How does this contribute to the realisation of your vision?
We can now take two of our projects through clinical phase II. This phase is crucial because it is the first time in our sector that new compounds are substantially tested on patients. Our first project is intended to treat lung infections caused by hospital germs, and the second is intended to target resistant tuberculosis pathogens. Clinical phase II should last about a year. Ideally, then, we can apply for marketing authorisation in three to four years.
What are your biggest challenges in development?
On top of the scientific challenge, recruiting patients for clinical trials is difficult. When dealing with hospital germs, we have to work with people who are very sick and are most often in intensive care. In addition, there are exclusion criteria and country-specific issues, which makes research challenging. Naturally, funding is also crucial. In the biotech sector, the need for financing is substantial; development takes a long time. At the same time, obtaining funding for antibiotic studies is difficult because these drugs are essential to produce but should be taken as uncommonly as possible. That's why new reimbursement models are needed.
BioVersys has been in Tech Park Basel since 2012. What do you like about this location?
We have no reason to move out because we have the facilities we need for our work here. We have been able to grow moderately but well. Tech Park Basel's flexibility is great, and we are happy to be based here.
You founded the company in Basel and have remained loyal to the location. Why?
We like Basel-Stadt because the politicians here understand the needs of the biotech and pharmaceutical industry. We feel well looked after and appreciated. One example: our industry received the proper support during the Covid pandemic. I have nothing but praise for Basel-Stadt. And of course, the location offers essential advantages such as access to talent, existing expertise, and the right infrastructure to attract talent.
What distinguishes BioVersys from other antibiotic research start-ups?
We are no longer strictly a start-up because we are older than five years. But we are not yet generating revenues, and this lengthy development time is typical for our industry. Our product candidates are quite innovative in how they approach and treat bacteria. They are not broad-spectrum antibiotics that kill all the body's bacteria; they go specifically to the bacteria causing the infection. We are one of the world's leading developers of precision medicine against bacteria.
What advice would you give governments to fight antibiotic resistance?
Antibiotics are victims of their success: they only need to be taken for a short time to cure. Antibiotics must be used with restraint to minimise the risk of new resistance. Regarding reimbursement, governments must move away from price per pack or pill. In the future, governments must pay for access to novel antibiotics, with sales volume regulated by medical need. This is comparable to a Netflix subscription for antibiotics.
What costs would we have to reckon with?
Studies show that it would cost five CHF per capita per year in Switzerland to access new, effective antibiotics for the next 30–40 years. It is better to invest in prevention than wait until resistant germs spread so widely that every simple operation is life-threatening like pre-penicillin times. This horrifying scenario is closer than people realise. Sweden and the UK have already introduced a kind of Netflix subscription for antibiotics; Switzerland should take these countries as a model.
BioVersys AG is a privately owned clinical stage Swiss pharmaceutical company focusing on research and development of small molecules acting on novel bacterial targets with applications in antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and targeted microbiome modulation. With the company’s award-winning TRIC technology we can overcome resistance mechanisms, block virulence
production and directly affect the pathogenesis of harmful bacteria towards the identification of new treatment options in the antimicrobial and microbiome fields. By this means, BioVersys addresses the high unmet medical need for new treatments against life-threatening resistant bacterial infections and bacteria-exacerbated chronic inflammatory microbiome disorders.
Our most advanced research and development programs address nosocomial infections of Acinetobacter baumannii (BV100, Phase II-ready), and tuberculosis (BVL-GSK098, Phase I) in collaboration with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and a consortium of the University of Lille. BioVersys is located in the Technologiepark in the biotech hub of Basel.
Tech Park Basel
The Tech ParkBasel is the premier address for early-stage tech start-ups in Basel that transform knowledge into marketable products and services. It offers a collaboration-friendly, yet business-driven environment and is part of the rapidly growing Stücki Park in the dynamic northern part of Basel. Tenants are selected carefully to ensure a high level of innovation.