Modified bacteria to cure chronic wounds
With genetically altered lactic-acid bacteria, Evelina Vågesjö, a recent doctoral graduate and CEO of Ilya Pharma, is on the way to solving one of healthcare’s greatest challenges.
“Chronic wounds are a very common problem that causes severe suffering among those affected and demands extensive healthcare resources. With our new biotherapy, we hope to be able to accelerate the healing process by up to 80 per cent at the same time that the consumption of antibiotics can be reduced in connection with treatment!”
Less than five years have passed since Evelina Vågesjö, who at the time had just become a doctoral student, began thinking about the possibility of modifying lactic-acid bacteria to deliver medicine to wounds.
Unique effects in experiments
Today, her doctoral cap is on the shelf, but Evelina is continuing to drive the project forward as the CEO of the newly formed limited company Ilya Pharma. Her redesigned bacteria demonstrate unique effects in experiments on mice and the first clinical tests await in 2017.
“For the next phase, we need to raise around SEK 30 million, but we’re getting good coaching from Uppsala Innovation Centre and UU Innovation, and our results are inciting great interest in both the pharmaceutical industry and venture capital companies, so it looks like financing will sort itself out,” confirms Evelina Vågesjö from the laboratory at the Uppsala Biomedical Centre.
Backed by EIT Health
The new technique garners attention even beyond Sweden’s borders. EIT Health, the European consortium that has been commissioned by the EU to address the challenges of the healthcare community, chose early on to support the development of Ilya Pharma, and when Evelina Vågesjö presented the results of her work at EIT Health’s annual conference in Barcelona, she was awarded a continued grant – in tough competition with other young researchers – to take her innovation further.
“Having the backing of EIT Health gives us both a stamp of quality that hopefully eases our future activities and access to a wider European network. In 2017, we are invited to present Ilya Pharma at the Global Investor Forum in Maastricht and we also hope to initiate new collaboration in connection with the EIT Health Matchmaking Event in Uppsala, which can strengthen our possibilities in larger European requests for proposals.”
Ready for next major step
A great deal of work remains before Evelina Vågesjö’s bacteria are ready to meet the market, but she and her colleagues at Ilya Pharma have their sights steadily set forward. Their patents are in hot demand and if the test results are positive, negotiations on manufacturing under licence and external ownership will be at hand.
“To-date, for resource reasons, we have focused on wounds among patients with diabetes, but our technique has potential to be able to be applied to all acute and chronic wounds and as soon as we validate the concept, we will take the next major step on the fantastic journey that my former supervisor, Professor Mia Phillipson, let me begin. Today, there are five of us and a number of consultants who are collaborating in the project and Ilya Pharma, and regardless of where the road may take us, it is a huge inspiration to partake of the powerful exchange that arises when different competencies meet and strive towards a common goal!”
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