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Launch of new Perth biotech company combatting antimicrobial resistance.

Kristen Houston

1 Sept 2022

A new Perth-based biotech company held their launch event this week featuring opening words from Minister Stephen Dawson, CERI founder Charlie Bass, and cystic fibrosis advocate, Diane Shader Smith.

Lixa – founded in 2021 by Dr Angela Fonceca and Dr Maud Eijkenboom – is working to solve recurring, problematic microbial infections and contaminations and have just closed their first capital raising round of over $2 million.

Antimicrobial resistance (or AMR for short) happens when harmful microbes evolve and develop the ability to survive antimicrobials such as antibiotics. AMR has been a growing issue globally, exacerbated in part by the inappropriate and overuse of antibiotics, and has been declared by the WHO as one of the top ten public health threats facing humanity.

“Patients with cystic fibrosis, for example, experience chronic lung infections which eventually lead to premature death.” Says Dr Fonceca. “A huge part of the battle is just finding something that will work against the bacteria as they continue to evolve resistance to treatments.”

Diane Shader Smith lost her own daughter, Mallory Smith, to a superbug infection secondary to her cystic fibrosis and now travels the world speaking passionately about the hardships of chronic illness and the urgency of solving antimicrobial resistance. She joined the launch event via video link from the US to signal her support to the Lixa mission and bring to the forefront the real patients affected by AMR every day.

As well as cystic fibrosis, AMR is a problem in a litany of health issues – including tuberculosis, wound healing and urinary tract infections. But it goes even further than health; affecting clean water, surfaces, veterinary medicine and livestock.

Dr Fonceca and her colleagues invented the technology behind Lixa – Neo X – while working as senior respiratory infection researchers at UWA. After an introduction to Dr Eijkenboom, a veteran in drug development, the two hit it off and decided to start a company. Dr Eijkenboom had her own personal experience with AMR, having spent years seeking solutions for her son.

“Bacteria are developing resistance faster than we can create new antibiotics,”

says Dr Eijkenboom.

“At Lixa, we are developing technologies to break this cycle. You see, up to 80% of recurring infections are thought to be caused by bacteria that are protected by a biofilm, a thick, gooey shield that is impenetrable to antibiotics and the immune system. In such infections, antibiotics have an uphill battle because they cannot even reach the bacteria. With Lixa’s Neo X, we can dissolve this biofilm and allow the immune system or medication to do their job.”

Lixa have been making rapid progress in the past 6 months, having spun out of The University of Western Australia and taken up office space at the Centre for Entrepreneurial Research and Innovation (CERI) in Nedlands. Since doing so, they have raised their first round of capital, received a $10,000 micro-investment from CERI START, grown their team to six people and been selected as a WA Innovator of the Year Wesfarmers Well-Being finalist.

The Lixa team attribute their recent progress as a testament to the strength and safety of the technology, and the support of the Perth innovation ecosystem. They are expecting to start an initial clinical trial within the next 12 months and are actively seeking partnerships with clinicians, government, universities and industry partners. The Lixa technology is also expected to be applicable for industrial or marine antifouling and animal husbandry.

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