UTEC’s investment in an Indian Biotech startup
The University of Tokyo Edge Capital (UTEC), located in Bunkyo, Tokyo, has recently invested in a bio-tech startup based in India, called Bugworks Research. Bugworks has successfully completed its series A round by raising $ 9 million (¥ 1 billion approx.). Bugworks is developing and testing drugs to fight Superbugs - microorganisms that are resistant to multiple variety of drugs.
Bugworks was founded in 2014, by Anand Anandkumar ( CEO ), who’s a serial entrepreneur and a veteran in the field of semiconductors and biotech. The company is based in Bangalore ( India’s Silicon Valley ). There are around 20 employees researching and developing drugs against superbugs.
In recent times, Bacteria have developed a mechanism called a drug efflux pump that ejects antibiotics to the outside and weakens the efficacy of drugs. This pump is considered to be one of the reasons that led to the development of multidrug-resistant bacteria. Antibacterial drugs from Bugworks have the advantage of being able to effectively attack bacteria while impeding the function of this pump’s mechanism.
Antibiotics have become ineffective in fighting the infectious diseases caused by these multidrug-resistant bacteria. This has become a global social problem. According to a report published by UK research organizations, the number of deaths due to multidrug-resistant bacteria is estimated to be 10 million / year, across the world, by 2050, unless appropriate measures are taken against antibiotic abuse, etc.
In order to promote R&D against the multidrug-resistant bacteria, "CARB-X" of industry, academia and government organization led by Boston University in the United States was established in 2004, and is being supported by the US government, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, etc.
In July 2005, Bugworks received a grant of $ 6 million and is the first Asian biotech startup to receive that grant. Anand Kumar is determined to begin clinical trial by 2020.
In this series A round, Indian VC fries have also contributed significantly. Through UTEC, Bugworks established a collaborative research with Japan, with Professor Murakami of Tokyo Institute of Technology as its scientific advisor to study the mechanisms of the multidrug-resistant bacteria.
Anandkumar said, "I would like to partner with as many Japanese pharmaceutical companies as possible and accelerate the R&D.“.
Earlier this year, UTEC has launched its 4th fund of 25 billion yen earmarked for advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, advanced materials, preventive medical care as priority areas. UTEC plans to invest, not only in Japan, but also in startup companies in India, Southeast Asia, and the US.