Investing in the battle to overcome drug resistant fungal infections

January 31, 2018

With a $100,000 investment, Ontario Genomics is helping Toronto-based start-up company Bright Angel Therapeutics develop novel anti-fungal treatments.

Fungal diseases are a global public health problem. Data compiled by the Global Action Fund for Fungal Infections (GAFFI) show that “over 300 million people are afflicted with a serious fungal infection and 25 million are at high risk of dying or losing their sight.”  Mortality due to fungal infections is primarily due to the development of resistance to the few available anti-fungal compounds.

Ontario Genomics’ Pre-commercial Business Development Fund (PBDF) investment will help Bright Angel Therapeutics develop new compounds that exploit a novel strategy to treat fungal infections. By targeting a stress response mechanism that enables fungi to become drug-resistant, this strategy will transform existing antifungals from ineffective to highly efficacious against all the leading fungal pathogens. Importantly, the stress response-targeting strategy being developed by Bright Angel enhances the efficacy of all 3 classes of current antifungal drugs. It is applicable to the leading causes of invasive fungal infection and thwarts the emergence of drug-resistance. This strategy will allow the company to tap into the existing very large antifungal market.

Bright Angel Therapeutics was founded by Drs. Leah Cowan and Luke Whitesell, now both at the University of Toronto, based on technology developed while they were at the Whitehead Institute, in collaboration with the late Dr. Susan Lindquist. With the assistance of MaRS Innovation, the company has partnered with Schrödinger Inc. to take advantage of Schrödinger’s world class molecular modeling and drug design expertise. MaRS Innovation will continue to provide start-up guidance.

“We are excited to support this Ontario-based therapeutics company and its promising strategies to develop important antifungal treatments,” said Ihor Boszko, Vice President of Business Development at Ontario Genomics. “The successful completion of the funded work, expected to take a year, will help to position the company for a seed financing event.”

“As a start-up, the early stage funding provided by the PBDF program from Ontario Genomics was instrumental in getting our company off the ground,” said Dr. Dominic Jaikaran, CEO Bright Angel Therapeutics.  “The funding allowed us to move forward in our collaboration with Schrödinger Inc. and start working toward our goal of tackling the problem of fungal drug-resistance.”