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As a species, we have a problem. Bacteria are becoming more and more resistant to antibiotics. Makes sense: Antibiotics kill off all the bacteria they can, but the remaining ones that somehow survive continue to grow and spread. Guess which gene they all have in common? That’s right, the one that makes them resistant to antibiotics.
We’ve known this for years, but instead of accelerating, the work on new antibiotics is slowing down significantly. Why? Capitalism: It’s really expensive to develop new drugs, and once they’re developed, it’s hard to make a lot of money on them.
PhageLab wants to come to the rescue with a different approach: using a phage (short for “bacteriophage”). Phages are a type of virus that infects bacteria and kills them. Unlike traditional antibiotics, phages can be designed to target very specific bacteria, and that lets us use them to kill only the bacteria you don’t want (say, salmonella), while your gut bacteria stay more or less intact.
Of course, the process is not without downsides. One of the reasons broad-spectrum antibiotics work so well is that doctors often don’t know exactly which bacteria are wreaking havoc, and if you have a phage that attacks only a handful of bacteria, that could pose a challenge.
Still, I love phages in general, and the idea behind PhageLab is pretty rad. The team shared their pitch deck with me, so let’s see what the company showed investors to raise its $11 million Series A round.
We’re looking for more unique pitch decks to tear down, so if you want to submit your own, here’s how you can do that.
The page numbering on the deck is wonky (Page 1 is labeled 1, but page 3 is labeled 2) so keep in mind that when I refer to slide numbers in this teardown, I’m referring to the page number of the PDF, not what’s on the slides themselves. The final slide is page 26 of the PDF, but it is labeled 32, so it’s clear that some slides were deleted from the deck before PhageLab shared it with me. The company says the use of funds slide has been removed, but it’s not entirely clear what else was deleted.
Still, let’s review this deck as if this were the full story and see where that takes us.
There’s some truly fantastic storytelling in this deck.
Startups in this space always have to worry about the big pharma companies. They can definitely outspend you, so the question is how you’re going to outsmart them.This slide goes a long way toward answering that: The business case for developing new antibiotics is plummeting, which opens the door for PhageLab.
In the rest of this teardown, we’ll take a look at three things PhageLab could have improved or done differently, along with its full pitch deck!