In 2017, Bastian enthusiastically choose the uncertainty of a startup. Chemist Andreas A. Bastian started his business AGILeBiotics on the Zernike campus of the University of Groningen. He wanted to achieve a breakthrough in the battle against antibiotic resistance. “We now have a technology that we have patented in both Europe as well as the US, which is crucial.”
The estimate is that by 2050, ten million people will die annually as a result of infections with resistant bacteria. Antibiotic resistance is a massive global health problem. The momentum is perfect for Bastian’s young business AGILeBiotics to get investors: “I am really busy pitching our business idea everywhere. The first money is already in. Three local investors joined us in February 2018, and their money is financing our initial research.” The scientists know that massive financial interests are at stake: “The profit potential of our invention is enormous. My team, our investors and I believe in the idea and are prepared to take on the risk of a startup. There are now five of us, all with a scientific background and some with business experience. We are in a perfect environment with small innovative businesses that seek each other out, support and help each other.”
‘We now have a technology that we have patented in both Europe and the US, which is crucial.’Andreas A. Bastian – AGILeBiotics
The patented technology called OxaSelect was developed by Bastian during his doctorate in Groningen. The major benefit is that this technology makes it possible to develop new antibiotics based on old antibiotics much easier and faster. “We can reduce the number of steps in the synthesis process by 50%. That makes a massive difference in production costs and the accessibility of new antibiotics. This route has a greater chance of success because this type of antibiotic has been used successfully since the forties before resistance emerged. I expect that we can do the first tests on mice with a candidate antibiotic in the coming years.”
Money is crucial in this stage for every startup. We have the patent, but a market launch is still far away. Bastian: “‘I am thinking in the long term for our business, but I have to act in the short term and attract as much money as possible. It’s all rather uncertain, but it gives me energy, which is the challenge. There have been very few developments in this field these past decades. Later if we have one successful substance, we will have enough income and opportunities to attract more investors. Moreover, we need innovative startups more than ever.” In recent decades, there has been little progress in the field of antibiotics. While there is an urgent need for new antibiotics to keep up with the constantly increasing bacterial resistance.
“Communication is key for us,” says Bastian, “only then will we get the attention of relevant market parties. They need to know what we can do.” As such, in early November 2017, he spoke at the annual BIO-Europe event in Berlin, the largest global event for the biotech industry. “We received a lot of positive responses there. There is confidence in our idea,” concludes Bastian, who graduated with the group of Professor Andreas Hermann, co-founder of the business.