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ConjuGon receives $500,000 to battle bacteria

MADISON—ConjuGon, Inc. has received a $500,000 federal research grant, the company announced Tuesday.

ConjuGon was awarded a phase II small-business innovation research grant from the National Science Foundation to continue work on an antibacterial treatment. The funding complements the $100,000 phase I grant the company received last year for the same technology.

According to Sal Braico, ConjuGon’s chief operating officer, the grant will help fund the fight against resistant bacteria.

"We are developing a novel antibacterial treatment targeting things like catheter-associated urinary tract infections. Our technology utilizes highly attenuated bacteria that transfer DNA into targeted pathogenic bacteria. Then DNA proceeds to kill the bacteria," Braico said. "We use that [technology] to create a treatment or drug to prevent or treat catheter-associated urinary tract infections and other kinds of resistant infections."

ConjuGon’s first therapeutic is expected to be in pre-clinical testing next year, Braico added.
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SBIR grants are frequently peer-reviewed and are designed to prove the technological feasibility and credibility of applicant proposals. Phase I grants focus on early stage product development, whereas phase II awards are oriented toward product marketing and commercialization.

"There’s no question that when you receive a SBIR phase II grant it validates your work because it is peer reviewed," Braico said. "It’s one thing to get a smaller, reviewed phase I grant, but to get a larger phase II grant – it’s pretty important grant to receive."

ConjuGon has raised more than $1.1 million in seed capital, including $700,000 from angel investors and $290,000 in economic development loans from the Madison Development Corporation and the Wisconsin Department of Commerce.

Madison-based ConjuGon is developing therapeutics to combat antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections, a growing medical concern. Based on University of Wisconsin-Madison research, the company has developed technologies to eliminate pathogenic bacteria while reducing the bacteria’s ability to resist treatment.

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