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Major funding to develop slow-releasing antimicrobial agent for dentistry and medicine

25 April 2016

A University of Bristol spin-out company working to advance the treatment and prevention of bacterial infection by developing a solution to improve the efficacy of chlorhexidine-based products has received major investment to progress the technology.

The funding totalling nearly £900,000 for Pertinax Pharma Ltd has come from three sources - Mercia Fund Management (MFM), a leading technology investor; a private investor and Innovate UK through its Aid for Start-ups scheme.

The technology is likely to have significant impact across a number of areas including dentistry, where one in seven composite fillings fail within seven years and 86 per cent of these failures are caused by bacterial infection.

Based on years of research and development by Dr Michele Barbour and her research group in the University’s School of Oral and Dental Sciences, Pertinax is a new formulation of chlorhexidine. Chlorhexidine (CHX) is a proven antimicrobial agent, used widely to prevent and treat a range of infections, but in its traditional formulation is effective for only very short periods. In its initial uses, Pertinax will help to lower the failure rate of dental fillings following tooth decay. Pertinax will be used as a component of the cement material used to fill cavities and will maintain an environment which bacteria cannot colonise, reducing the risk of filling failure.

Dr Michele Barbour, Founder and CSO of Pertinax Pharma Ltd, and Senior Lecturer in Biomaterials at the University, said:

“We’re very excited about Pertinax’s potential. Our first target market will be in oral care and dentistry, where there are a number of important applications of the technology, but in time we expect Pertinax to also find application in medicine, where it will be a very useful tool, particularly as antibiotic resistance becomes more prevalent and doctors turn to non-antibiotic technologies to protect and treat their patients.”

Dr Brijesh Roy, Investment Manager at Mercia Fund Management, added:

“With a strong management team and innovative product, Pertinax Pharma has the potential to take its product from dental tool to a must-have anti-infective across a wide range of industries, from veterinary care, to cosmetics and even home appliances.”

Funding from MFM’s capital of £200,000 is being matched by an investment by a university alumnus. A further grant of £489,000 has been awarded from Innovate UK Aid for Start-ups following participation in the ICURe programme in February.

The funding will enable Pertinax Pharma to begin the development of a robust, scalable production process and tap into its initial target market – oral care and dentistry.

Ashley Cooper, CEO at Pertinax Pharma Ltd, said:

“I am looking forward to working with MFM, which has a strong track record of supporting university spin-outs across a wide range of sectors. Their investment will help us to scale up the development of Pertinax which, due to its slow release capability, is more suitable to the environment and purpose of its application, and is already receiving interest from potential future partners.”

Pertinax is a particulate form of chlorhexidine (CHX), a widely-used biocide that can kill microbes and bacteria without damaging the contact area. CHX has a variety of uses, from skin and wound care to the treatment of periodontal disease, and is proven to be effective against a range of potentially dangerous microbes, including MRSA and E.coli. Furthermore, because CHX works by disrupting the microbial cell membrane, there is little danger of that microbe developing resistance, making CHX a vital tool in modern medicine.

However, despite its advantages, CHX in its traditional form has a limited window of effectiveness, lasting hours and sometimes only minutes. Pertinax has an unusually low solubility, meaning it can deliver antimicrobial protection in a more controlled way, thus maintaining an antimicrobial environment for much longer periods, as dictated by the clinical need – in some cases, this may be several years.

Major funding to develop slow-releasing antimicrobial agent for dentistry and medicine
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