Firm’s pitch comes through loud and clear

Two capital raises in the past six months have an upstart local biotech firm feeling flush.

AmpliPhi Biosciences brought in $18 million in fresh cash in December. That followed $7 million it raised over the summer. The combined funds give the Glen Allen-based firm the firepower it needs to continue development of its bacteria-killing products into 2015.

Baxter Phillips

Baxter Phillips

Run by Richmond natives and veterans of the local biotech and pharmaceutical industry Philip Young and Baxter Phillips, AmpliPhi is betting that there’ll be a big payoff if it can get its bacteriophage-based drugs to market.

The company was created in 2011 as the result of a merger of two offshore biotech firms. Young and Phillips joined AmpliPhi after stints at Insmed, a publicly traded pharmaceutical company that was previously headquartered in Richmond.

“It’s giant,” Young said of the market potential for their products. “The global antibiotic market is estimated to top $40 billion by 2015. The numbers are huge.”

Phillip Young

Phillip Young

With the cash in hand, the company is working to prove that its products can fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a scourge it sees as a rising health threat and a market ripe to be tapped into.

Headquartered just off Nuckols Road in Glen Allen, the company has labs in the BioTech Park in Richmond, England and Australia, where researchers are working to isolate and harness naturally occurring bacteriophage into a product that can be used to kill bacteria that have grown resistant to antibiotics. The company has about a dozen employees and uses dozens of contractors from around the world.

Although its stock is traded on the open market, AmpliPhi is a pre-revenue company, meaning its main mission today is to develop a product that will eventually generate revenue.

“We are definitely your prototypical biotech company,” said Young, the company’s president and chief executive and a Benedictine and James Madison University graduate. “We have raised money, and we’re going to prove we can take our science forward.”

AmpliPhi is targeting three key markets where it sees an unmet medical need for its bacteriophage products, Young said.

Those include fighting a common lung infection that plagues cystic fibrosis patients, a digestive infection that’s common among elderly patients taking antibiotics and staph infection “superbugs” such as MRSA.

If and when they comes to market, AmpliPhi’s products would be delivered to patients in a variety of forms, including pills, inhalants and topical and intravenous applications.

The company will look to do clinical trials in 2014, although Young said patience is a virtue in the biotech industry. Getting a product to market is a long and complicated process of trial and error and regulatory red tape.

“You’ve got to be patient, but getting it going is exciting,” he said.

Its stock, which trades on the OTC Bulletin Board under the ticker symbol APHB, finished 2013 at $0.50 per share. The company hopes to move its stock to the New York Stock Exchange in the first quarter of 2014, Young said.

The two recent capital raises should last at least 18 months or so, but Young said AmpliPhi would continue its roadshow to get in front of investors.

“We’re never done,” he said. “I am very happy we got this money. But we’re never done meeting investors and talking to investors.

The company did not identify the investors that participated in December’s $18 million private placement.

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