Waukesha startup FloraSeq LLC is trying to improve treatments of a colon infection that’s increasingly hitting younger people.
Clostridium difficile colitis is caused by bacteria that damage the lining of the colon, potentially rupturing it. The infection, which affects more than 700,000 people each year, can also spread to the rest of the body.
Once seen primarily in the elderly, “C Diff.” is appearing more often in younger populations – which means the market for a treatment has expanded.
Treating this infection can currently be a lengthy and difficult process. Antibiotics can’t cure 30 percent of infected patients, which means the final option for many patients is a fecal transplant. This process is not FDA-approved yet, and as it’s currently in the experimental stage, most insurance companies won’t cover the cost.
These fecal transplants, although they appear to be 94 percent effective, are time-consuming, requiring doctors to find a healthy donor who’s a perfect match for the patient.
That’s where FloraSeq comes in. The Waukesha company wants to create a better alternative to fecal transplants, and has developed an oral microbiota capsule that appears to be significantly more effective than current antibiotics.
The two founders, Steve Visuri and Karen Harrington, met and worked at Prodesse, a medical diagnosis company that was acquired by GenProbe and later rolled up into Hologic.
With 40 years of combined experience, the two looked for a less invasive and more effective treatment option.
Antibiotics currently have a 40 percent success rate for treating C Diff, but FloraSeq’s capsule will achieve 90 percent effectiveness, its founders say. This treatment will also be significantly cheaper and more widely available than fecal transplants, they add.
The capsule is on track to get FDA approval through the agency’s orphan drug program for treatment of rare diseases and conditions.
FloraSeq has few direct competitors, although others have tried to create a more durable alternative to fecal transplants. The founders say they can provide therapeutic products that promote gut health and relieve gastrointestinal ailments while offering complementary clinical laboratory services for diagnosing infectious diseases and gut dysbiosis, a microbial imbalance.
FloraSeq is looking for more investors to move beyond the seed stage. The company projects a need for $8 million to $10 million over time, with a current capital raise of $700,000. This money would go towards additional research and development, pre-clinical testing and enhancing the company’s plan.
FloraSeq was among 28 companies selected to present at the Nov. 4-5 Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium. It has also been selected to pitch at other events featuring tech-based companies and was a finalist in the 2015 Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest. The company has been certified as a Qualified New Business Venture by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., which means investors may be eligible for state tax credits.
By Carly Dawson,
Dawson is a student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.