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Synmedix: Treating infections with the next generation of antibiotics. Photo of a medical researcher, who is wearing lab PPE, adding a liquid to a test tube via a dropper.

Synmedix: Treating infections with the next generation of antibiotics

If there’s one thing that haunts the science community, it’s the antimicrobial resistance crisis. Put simply, if bacteria and fungi develop the ability to defeat the drugs that are designed to kill them, it could cause more deaths from infections and leave fewer ways to treat them. There are many scientists actively looking for solutions for this growing issue. 

As a researcher working in Dr. Eric Brown’s lab at McMaster University and now the current CEO of Synmedix, Dr. Maya Farha was also on a similar quest when she noticed something interesting. Dr. Farha observed that bicarbonate, a dominant buffer in the human body, helps enhance the action of many antibiotics and components of the immune system. Not only that, Dr. Farha also noticed that bicarbonate helped antibiotics work better against bacteria that were normally resistant to them. Recognizing the potential to develop the next generation of antibiotics, Dr. Farha concluded that a combination of an antibiotic and bicarbonate can help improve and extend antibiotic activity. With this discovery, Synmedix was founded by Dr. Brown as a biotechnology company, creating novel antibacterial therapies to address the antimicrobial crisis. 

With millions of diabetes patients worldwide, issues like foot ulcer infections can sometimes lead to amputations, and currently, there are no forms of treatments to treat the infection externally. The lack of treatment and the complications of having drug-resistant bacteria present in the infected area makes recovery harder. Taking that as a challenge, the team at Synmedix started their journey to create an effective topical treatment for diabetic foot ulcers.  

Synmedix’s commercialization journey

Dr. Farha and Dr. Brown soon realized they needed help to navigate their commercialization journey and turned to the business accelerator, Innovation Factory (iF). The team was looking for support that could not only lead to funding opportunities and collaborations but also help put together the formulation of their topical treatment. 

iF teamed up with Synmedix to help the company polish its business model and introduce important connections. Seeing the company’s potential, the team was encouraged to apply to iF’s 2021 Synapse Life Science Pitch Competition. Working closely with iF’s Expert Advisors, they crafted an impressive pitch that landed them in second place in the competition. This experience played a crucial role in helping the team create a strong plan for commercialization and a clear timeline to market. 

“The competition experience was really good for Synmedix. At the end of the day, we are a group of researchers trying to commercialize our discovery. We were able to learn a lot, and network with potential investors at the event,” said Dr. Farha. 

Soon after, Synmedix was ready to apply to the Southern Ontario Pharmaceutical & Health Innovation Ecosystem (SOPHIE) program. Delivered by Innovation Factory, in collaboration with the Synapse Life Science Consortium, the SOPHIE program launched in 2021 with a $7-million investment from the Government of Canada through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario). The SOPHIE program supports high-potential life science companies and enables them to accelerate their path to market. To date, the program has supported 54 commercialization projects and enabled $12.5 million in commercialization investment.  

The SOPHIE program has played a big part in Synmedix’s commercialization journey, connecting the team with advisors and establishing a strategic partnership with McMaster University to develop and validate their product. Through successful animal studies, they developed their first-in-class formulation of the topical therapy for diabetic foot ulcers.

The future of antibiotics

Dr. Farha excitedly shared that after the completion of the SOPHIE program and establishing the formulation, Synmedix will be working with a Contract Development and Manufacturing Organization (CDMO) to create a market-ready product that can then be used in clinical trials and later commercialized. Currently, the team is fundraising to begin clinical trials to test the product in patients with diabetic foot ulcer infections. Dr. Farha adds, “With existing safety data for known antibiotics, we can leverage an accelerated pathway to regulatory approval from the FDA.” Additionally, Synmedix secured $300K in seed funding as well as two granted U.S. patents and many more in various jurisdictions.

Synmedix has some exciting things ahead as it works to fight antibiotic resistance and introduce new treatments. The company’s commitment to addressing a major global health problem shows how science and business innovation can make a big difference.

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