Procarta expand on the Norwich Research Park

Dr Michael McArthur, CSO of Procarta Biosystems

How can you kill harmful bacteria and yet keep the bacteria that are beneficial to the body? This is one of the grand challenges that Norwich Research Park scientists at Procarta Biosystems are investigating. With the announcement of a further investment of £500,000 from Morningside Venture Investments and recent IP success, the company is poised to expand its research programme and grow its science team, moving closer to becoming commercially viable.

Dr Michael McArthur, CSO of Procarta Biosystems, a spinout from the John Innes Centre, comments that the patent is important as it protects the company’s central technology.

“It is becoming recognised amongst investors and grant funders that something must be done about the challenge of antibacterial resistance. What we can offer is a genuinely novel and potent approach that can be rapidly developed to treat numerous bacterial infections, for which the number of effective treatments is dwindling.

“The recent granting of the patent in the EU – which we expect to go worldwide – protecting our use of this new class of antibacterials is a huge step forward for the company.

“Procarta is at an important stage and the injection of funds will allow us to diversify and accelerate our development work.”

Procarta is working on a new type or ‘novel class’ of DNA-based antibiotics capable of tackling infections caused by bacteria that have become resistant to conventional drugs.

The company calls its approach to antibiotic development ‘Snare’1 as it works by capturing bacterial proteins, transcription factors, which control genes essential for the bacteria to grow inside the cell and cause infection. The approach has proven to be successful against MRSA and is being adapted to treat a wide range of pathogens that constitute a substantial threat to the way we practise modern medicine.

Unlike current antibiotics that are fighting a losing battle against drug resistance, SnareTM antibacterials act on entirely novel targets for which there is no existing resistance.

Procarta’s antibacterials are highly adaptable and can be applied to a wide range of bacterial pathogens. Its antibacterial developed to treat MRSA is already in pre-clinical development.

Procarta has gained a further boost in securing protection for its intellectual property.

The company has two novel inventions: the first interferes with the metabolism of the bacteria by blocking an active site using a Transcription Factor Decoy (TFD) which prevents the real transcription factor binding to this region and thus halts essential processes in the bacteria. The second refers to the delivery of the TFD’s into Gram-positive and Gram-negative pathogens.

On Norwich Research Park, there is considerable knowledge of how to translate this type of disruptive research to bring it into the clinic: bench to bedside, and Dr McArthur’s company has built a strong collaborative network with fellow scientists on Norwich Research Park, particularly at the University of East Anglia (UEA), the Institute of Food Research (IFR) and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH).

Matthew Jones, Chief Operating Officer of Norwich Research Park said: “Procarta is a spin-out from the John Innes Centre and has expanded within the Norwich BioIncubator. The additional funding will allow it to actively collaborate with other partners on Norwich Research Park illustrating clearly the benefit of being located here.

“The new funding is vital as it will help take the company a step closer to becoming profitable through licensing its technology.”

Procarta was an Eastern Daily Press Future 50 Company in 2010 and Dr McArthur was also named Innovator of the Year 2010 by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), which funds academic research.


Notes for Editors:

1Snare antibacterials interfere with the metabolism of the bacteria by targeting a small region of a bacteria’s DNA known as a transcription factor binding site. Under normal circumstances, a transcription factor would bind to this region and control the activity of important genes. However, Procarta’s technology blocks these sites, preventing the transcription factor from binding and thus halting essential processes in the bacteria. This mechanism of action means it would be virtually impossible for a pathogen to develop resistance to the antibacterial.

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Norwich Research Park

Norwich Research Park is a partnership between the University of East Anglia, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, four independent world-renowned research institutes namely the John Innes Centre, Institute of Food Research and The Genome Analysis Centre (all strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)) and The Sainsbury Laboratory linked to the Gatsby Charitable Foundation. The BBSRC is itself a partner as is the John Innes Foundation.

The vision of the Norwich Research Park partners and local government stakeholders is to develop a thriving science and innovation business park over the next decade by supporting spin-out and start up companies and through attracting inward investment from large corporate organisations involved in science and technology. Norwich Research Park is home to around 30 science and IT based businesses.

With over 11,000 people including 2,700 scientists, the Norwich Research Park has one of Europe’s largest single-site concentrations of research in Health, Food and Environmental Sciences.

In 2011, the Government awarded BBSRC £26M to invest in Norwich Research Park to deliver innovation from the research base and generate economic growth and job creation. The investment will help to create and support new companies and jobs based on world-leading bioscience.

Procarta Biosytems Limited ( is a company formed by The John Innes Centre, Plant Bioscience Limited (PBL) and the founding scientists Dr Michael McArthur and Professor Mervyn Bibb. It previously received £320 000 funding from Iceni Seedcorn fund and the Rainbow Seed Fund and began operations in July 2007. It is currently headquartered in the Norwich Bioincubator.

Morningside ( is a diversified investment group founded in 1986 by the Chan family of Hong Kong. The Chan family founded the Hang Lung Group in Hong Kong in 1960. Morningside is engaged primarily in private equity and venture capital investments. The group has investments in North America, Europe, across Asia-Pacific, and since 1992, in Mainland China. Morningside was one of the earliest institutional investors in China’s internet industry and in recent years has been a leader in China’s emerging biotechnology sector.

The £10m Rainbow Seed Fund ( was established in 2001 with funding from the Office of Science and Innovation to commercialise scientific research in a leading group of the UK publicly funded institutions, its partners. The Fund, which is independently managed by Midven Ltd, made its first investment in 2002, and currently has a portfolio of 18 companies with one exit to date.

The Iceni Seedcorn Fund ( was established following a successful bid by a regional consortium of universities and institutes to the Department of Trade and Industry’s University Challenge Fund and invests in the commercialisation of research results arising in partner academic institutions in the Eastern region of the UK such as the University of East Anglia, the John Innes Centre, the Institute of Food Research, the Sainsbury Laboratory, PBL and the University of Essex, through either the creation of new ventures or through licensing.


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