Interview

#TogetherAgainstCOVID19 - NovaBiotics

Find out about NovaBiotics activities in the fight against COVID-19 in our video interview with CEO & Founder Deborah O'Neil. 

[Please note, the following is a transcription of the video interview]

Could you briefly introduce NovaBiotics and its core field of research?

I’m Deborah O’Neil, the CEO of NovaBiotics, a drug discovery company based in Aberdeen in the UK, developing a range of antimicrobial therapy candidates for a spectrum of infectious diseases, but one in particular, Nylexa, is being developed by us for the bacterial infections associated with and causing much worse outcomes in COVID-19.

You recently announced that you could be testing one of your drugs on COVID-19 patients soon. What can it achieve in the fight against the pandemic?

Nylexa could have a really significant impact in COVID, not only could it improve survival, particularly of the most vulnerable patients and those especially with secondary bacterial pneumonia, but could also aid better recovery for the mid and the longer term in all COVID patients and survival with less lung damage. It obviously means a lot to be working on a project like this, that could have that impact. So I think for all of us working at the NovaBiotics team, it does mean a lot personally. That against the background of life having changed beyond anything that we know over the last few weeks for all of us. For our sector in particular, it’s interesting because we’re at the forefront of the research fight against COVID, but having to work under very unusual conditions: observe social distancing; put the rota systems in place; stay separate from each other even if we’re in the same building. Things that we’ve never done before, but I guess the end game of this, the ambition and what we’re trying to do with Nylexa for COVID makes all of that insignificant in terms of the bigger picture perspective.

What role do bacterial infections play in COVID-19 and what does this mean in the long run?

Bacterial infections in COVID really are the hidden killer in this disease and we’re also using more antibiotics than ever before during this pandemic in an attempt to combat them, but that’s actually driving a bigger problem for the future- that of accelerated antimicrobial resistance. So we’re desperate at NovaBiotics to move Nylexa forward so that it can benefit patients over the coming months, during the current pandemic and also beyond. And we’re moving mountains to do that. Not only do we have to work in a way that we never have before because of lockdown, but we’re also having to gear up to be busier than ever under these strange circumstances and new working practices to get ready for ramping up our COVID research.

How do you experience the collaboration across research, industry and countries to overcome this crisis?

Drug development overall is unprecedented at the moment, so the way in the UK that our National Health Service has effectively become the biggest testing organization for potential new therapies. The way that regulatory authorities in the UK and all over the world are working to accelerate as much as they can the approvals of clinical trials of potential new therapies and also their licensing as marketed products.

What is next for NovaBiotics?

COVID is a global problem and although as a UK company it will start its testing journey within the UK, we will absolutely roll out, not just testing of Nylexa for the treatment of COVID, but also patient access the world over as soon as we possibly can. Importantly, Nylexa is a readily available, cost-effective drug as well. This isn’t an expensive, unaffordable, likely to be inaccessible solution. So, we honestly believe that this could not only be rapidly deployed, but cost-effectively and economically deployed. Having serious benefit without impacting budgets and without people having to make a decision based on economics, whether or not to be able to use Nylexa in healthcare systems the world over, for which we’re absolutely focused on it being used in.