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Bacteriophages: Coming to a Vet Near You

The bacteriophage might be all the rage as an alternative bacteria assassin to replace antibiotics in animal agriculture.

Polish startup Proteon Pharmaceuticals is celebrating a $24.6M fundraising co-led by animal health giant Nutreco and aquaculture-focused VC firm Aqua-Spark. The investment boost will allow the company to roll out its bacteriophage-spiked animal health products globally, support product development, and expand its microbiome platform technology.

Let’s talk tech: Proteon uses an AI-powered platform to develop novel combinations of bacteriophages—viruses that infect bacteria—to protect livestock from diseases traditionally treated using antibiotics.

Bacteriophages are viruses (safe for humans and animals) that target specific bacteria like salmonella, infect it, and neutralize the threat. And they aren’t new kids on the block either.

Penicillin was the new phage: Phages were studied and used to combat deadly bacterial infections in humans until the discovery of antibiotics. After that, the phage approach was left in the dust. But a few countries including Russia, Georgia, and Poland kept using the little bacteria killers.

SuperVirus vs. SuperBug: With attention on the rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, Proteon aims to reduce animal ag’s reliance on antibiotics with their bacteriophage cocktails.

The hit list: They currently have products registered and available in Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia designed to attack salmonella, avian pathogenic E. coli infections in poultry production, and certain infections in fish farming.

Up next are solutions for mastitis in dairy cows and acute hepatopancreatic necrosis disease in shrimp production.