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13 September, 2019

Georgian BioChimPharm wins grant to further develop natural alternative to antibiotics for livestock breeding

Georgian biotech company BioChimPharm has won a grant from the Georgian Innovation and Technology Agency for its innovative veterinary antimicrobial product – PowerPhage.

PowerPhage is the world’s first natural antimicrobial effective in fighting harmful bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli and Shigella.

The product aims to provide alternatives to the use of antibiotics in poultry and livestock production and fight against the problem of antibiotic resistance.

PowerPhage can replace antibiotics on chicken and livestock farms, the company says.

Unlike other antimicrobials such as antibiotics, phages selectively eliminate disease-causing bacteria without harming the beneficial microflora of the organism.

“PowerPhage works against antibiotic resistant bacteria and inhibits the spread of antibiotic resistance. It is 100% natural, non-toxic and biodegradable”, the head of the innovation and business development department at BioChimPharm Rati Golijashvili says.

PowerPhage is still in the final stages of development, but will go public shortly.

The company BioChimPharm (BCP) has more than 80 years of experience in developing and manufacturing phage-based, alternative antibiotic remedies. The company is engaged in the development and production of a sustainable alternative to antibiotics.

The development and research of the phage-based therapy in Georgia is connected with the Georgian physician, bacteriologist and phage researcher George Eliava (1892-1937). Together with French-Canadian scientist Felic D’Herelle, who first discovered bacteriophages, Eliava had founded a bacteriological institute in Tbilisi in 1923. Giorgi Eliava was executed during the Stalin’s red terror in 1937.

17 May, 2018

Phages now available online

According to the WHO (World Health Organization), “Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today”. Year by year, disease-causing bacteria are becoming invulnerable to antibiotics which they couldn’t resist before. It is often the case that even the strongest groups of antibiotics are unable to overcome infections caused by resistant bacteria.

Growing bacterial resistance and severe side effects of antibiotics have eventuated a continuous call for a search of healthier ways resulting in the rising prominence of phage therapy – practice of treating bacterial infections with bacteriophage products.

Phage preparations are used for treatment and prevention of infections caused by MRSA and other pathogenic bacteria. Specially selected phages effectively eliminate even the resistant pathogens with unprecedented levels of safety – without harming anything else. At the present time, bacteriophage is considered to be the only viable alternative to antibiotics, but until recently, supply had always been either too short or too local to meet global needs.

The awaited e-commerce website has been freshly launched by Biorchimpharm – one of the world leaders in bacteriophage technology. By setting up the first online store of bacteriophage preparations the biotech aims to make phages and phage therapy  globally available. The page is currently running in test mode, although express courier is already delivering orders to the USA.

Biochimpharm is founded on a scientific and technological basis of Eliava Institute of Bacteriophages which had been providing Eastern European countries and all of the Soviet Union with phages for fifty years. The company has been producing natural, safe and effective preparations for more than two decades now as a private enterprise. They’ve recently developed phage veterinary additives that prevent and eliminate infections caused by E. coli, Listeria, Campylobacter, MRSA and other unwanted pathogens in animal farms, consequently affecting final consumers too. With the latest of their products Biochimpharm also provides a solution to the troubling problem of Salmonella in broiler farming. Apart from bacterial infections phage additives serve to protect customers of agricultural industry from destructive effects of antibiotics used in animal production

5 February, 2018

A “Viral” Startup

Well-known to Georgia, but new to the West: how Phage Nutraceuticals’ founder & CEO Rati Golijashvili uses bacteriophages, viruses, to disrupt a global market.

The high ceilings of the early 1900s medical building, and the heavy metal doors, combined with old Georgian and Russian medical books on phage therapy and bacteriophage research may seem an unlikely spot for a hot high tech startup, but for the fast rising Phage Nutraceuticals, this is their homebase.

Forbes meets with the startup’s founder, Rati Golijashvili, in the heart of the century old research facility on bacteriophages, just off Saakadze square, in Tbilisi. Slightly out of breath, but full of energy, Rati runs into the office where we are waiting for him. He apologizes for being late, but the snowstorm hitting Tbilisi overnight had made the trip from his family home in the dacha town Saguramo, 30 kilometers outside of Tbilisi, a bit of a hurdle.

Born into a family of biotech entrepreneurs, with his father founding the only phage pharmaceutical company in Georgia in the early 1990s, Rati knows the field he is getting himself into extremely well. And by focusing on the US market, he has a clear competitive advantage: no one knows what phages are, and there is hardly any competition, let alone from a young creative entrepreneur from a country that has led the research on phages for almost a century.


Rati calls phages the “black matter of the earth, which are the most abundant naturally occurring microorganisms on earth,” bacteriophages, or phages for short, target and destroy bacterial cells. Phages live in seawater, freshwater, soil and sewage slurries. There are around 1030 – 1032 phages in the biosphere and every 48h, phages infect and destroy about half the bacteria in the world. And different from antibiotics, phages only target particular bacterial species they are linked to.

But in the United States, after the discovery of antibiotics in the mid 20th century, the research into bacteriophages halted – antibiotics seemed an easier and more cost effective approach. Hidden behind the iron curtain, however, research and treatment continued. These studies were extensively published in non-English (primarily Russian, Georgian and Polish) journals.

And this is the field Phage Nutraceuticals is jumping into very cleverly. Not by offering pharmaceutical products replacing the well trusted antibiotics, but by offering preventive supplements and nutraceuticals for travelers, Travelphage™, and overall health improvement.
Rati was, already for years, contemplating new uses for phages in different fields, not just pharmaceuticals. While working at his father’s company Biochimpharm, he knew the implications of phages could potentially be huge. And this is where the innovation comes in.

One of the products Rati is developing is a supplement balancing out the good gut bacteria. A well-researched topic, it’s been known for decades that harmful bacteria in your stomach affect your overall health. As a countermeasure, probiotics were introduced. Unfortunately, probiotics only add healthy bacteria to the gut, but are not capable of eliminating the harmful ones. And that’s where phages come in. By combining several different phages attacking the harmful bacteria, probiotics are more likely to have a successful outcome, building a healthy microflora.

“It’s the door to your immune system and your overall health, even your mental health,” Rati says about the gut’s microflora, “and if it’s not balanced, your overall health won’t be too. And the balance depends on good and bad bacteria; with phages, you can easily eliminate, or control those bad ones.”


When Rati founded his startup end of spring 2016, he couldn’t know the rollercoaster he would get himself into. Winning the startup pitch event Startup Georgia by GITA in July 2016, Phage Nutraceuticals was awarded with GEL100.000 in pre-seed funding, has been taking part in an intensive incubator program, with mentor advise from Silicon Valley, and is likely to take a trip to the heart of startups in Silicon Valley self, and pitch their products to investors in the States.

“As any startup, we are looking for a next round of investments, the seed round,” Rati says, “But we will already have our first products ready by the second half of 2017, even though we are really an early stage startup.” and they will start selling the products in the US, online.

And Rati is confident in his products, “the products we’re developing are a solution to actual problems, and they are doing so in a new, innovative manner.” That is why he believes his startup will get the attention of investors abroad.


With phages being an unknown treatment course in the West, one of the major hurdles Phage Nutraceuticals has to take is a lack of trust. I ask Rati if he is not concerned consumers in the United States, the startup’s primary market, will have a hard time being convinced that viruses from the former Soviet Union can help with their health?

“We always fear anything that we don’t know,” Rati says confidently, and adds that “as information [about phages] spreads, more and more people will understand it’s safe, because it is.”
And that combined with a strategic online marketing plan, should mitigate for any distrust from the customers’ side.


Rati works with his startup from his family’s company’s office, and has full access to the whole team at Biochimpharm on a contractual basis. And for Rati, this is a major asset.

“This is such a unique product, and we have the knowledge right here. I see it as an advantage,” Rati explains, while adding that he is confident potential investors will understand this as well.
To my question if he would move his startup completely to the United States, including lab personnel, if an investor would request this as precondition, he tells me he can’t talk for everyone, and he is not sure.

“We have discussed this issue with our advisors several times and looking at the competitive advantages Georgia has in the field of phages, I think investors won’t be afraid to invest in Georgia.”

And while we finish our interview with a quick tour of the lab and the factory, Rati’s confidence his products will be a success, shines through. And confidence is maybe one of the most important factors in setting up a prosperous startup.

5 February, 2018

Phages caught sending chemical messages

Viruses sense chemical signals left behind by their forebears so they can decide whether to kill or just to infect their hosts.

The discovery — in viruses that attack Bacillus bacteria — marks the first time that any type of viral communication system has ever been found. But researchers say that many other viruses could communicate with each other through their own molecular languages — perhaps even viruses that are responsible for human diseases. If that is the case, scientists might have found a new way to disrupt viral attacks.

Reporter Noah Baker finds out about viruses that talk to each other.

The secret viral code was spotted by a team led by Rotem Sorek, a microbial geneticist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. Their findings are published in Nature on 18 January.

“This is going to be one of those transformative papers,” says microbiologist Martha Clokie, who studies viruses that infect bacteria (known as bacteriophages, or phages) at the University of Leicester, UK.

Infection signals

Sorek’s team was looking for evidence that a bacterium called Bacillus subtilis might alert other bacteria to phages. The researchers knew that bacteria speak to their brethren through secreting and sensing an array of chemicals. This phenomenon, called quorum sensing, allows the bacteria to adjust behaviours according to the numbers of other bacteria around. For instance, bacteria use quorum sensing to decide whether to divide or when to launch an infection.

Instead, the team found, to its surprise, that a viral invader of Bacillus bacteria — a phage called phi3T — makes a chemical that influences the behaviour of other viruses.

Some phages can infect cells in two different ways. Usually, they hijack host cells and multiply until the hosts burst and die. Sometimes, however, phages insert their own genetic material into a host’s genome, then lie dormant until a trigger causes them to reawaken and multiply later.

The newly discovered viral communication system alters the way phi3T infects.

The team first injected phi3T into a flask of Bacillus subtilis bacteria, and found that the virus tended to kill the bacteria. Then they filtered the contents of this flask to remove bacteria and viruses — but keeping small proteins — and fed this ‘conditioned medium’ to a fresh culture of bacteria and phages. That changed what the phage did: it was now more likely to slip its genome into the bacteria, rather than kill it. The team named the mysterious molecule that they suspected was involved ‘arbitrium’ (after the Latin word for decision) and set out to identify it.

After a two-and-a-half year search, Sorek and graduate student Zohar Erez discovered that arbitrium was a short viral protein that seeps out of infected bacteria after death. When levels of arbitrium build up — after a large number of cells have died — phages stop killing off the remaining bacteria and retreat to lie dormant in bacterial genomes instead. Sorek, Erez and their colleagues identified two further phi3T proteins that measure levels of arbitrium and then influence the nature of subsequent infections.

“It does make a lot of sense,” says Peter Fineran, a microbial geneticist at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. “If the phage is running out of hosts, it would try and limit its destruction, and sit quiet and wait for the host to re-establish growth.”

The new work is “annoyingly good”, says Clokie. “I’ve thought about doing those experiments to see if there’s something in the media.” She also expects other phage biologists will discover other communication systems. Sorek’s team found more than 100 different arbitrium-like systems, most of them in the genomes of other Bacillus viruses. “Phages broadcast in different frequencies. They speak in different languages and they can hear only the language that they speak,” he adds.

He even wonders whether viruses that infect more complex organisms, such as people, could talk to one another. HIV and herpes viruses can cause both active and latent infections, he notes. “If you had a molecule that could drive viruses into complete latency, it would be a good drug.”


17 November, 2017

Biochimpharm’s new marketing campaign

How does real superheroes look like ?

Biochimpharm, with the creative agency “Redberry” started new marketing campaign for raising awareness of microorganisms called phages.
During the campaign school children were asked to name and describe their favorite superheroes. There were different answers, but all of them said that superheroes exist only in imaginary world and it was easy to notice that this was said with childish sadness.


After interview we introduced real and smallest superheroes to them.


Objective of the campaign was to gain attention of parents. It is clear that children are the people who they care the most. We wanted to create strong emotional connection with children by introducing real heroes to them. If we look to the specific phages rationally they really are heroes who have huge power. From the interview we distinctly got the main characteristics that superheroes must have:
strength, care, guardianship, fighting with only bad, invisibility and etc.
During this campaign with the help of children we proved that superheroes exist in our real world as well. Despite we don’t see them easily they have massive power.
So our campaign is both educational and fun.

5 November, 2017

Biochimpharm – Innovative Business of 2016

The Georgian business community, government officials, and public sector representatives came together on November 17 to award the winners of the annual Business Awards.

The Business Awards is a joint initiative from TBC Bank and Geocell. The awards ceremony was held in the Museum of Tbilisi History, formerly known as Karvasla (Caravanserai).

The idea of the Business Awards was born in June 2016 as an initiative to support small and medium enterprises and as an overall effort to develop entrepreneurial spirit in the country through stimulating individuals to start their own businesses.

The main concept of the Business Award project is to raise brand awareness of the companies involved, and to share the stories of their success.

The project is made up of several phases: companies are first registered according to category and then winners are selected.

This year 523 companies were registered overall and three finalists were chosen by anonymous jury members in each category for the final competition.

The Business Awards were selected according to the following categories:

Small Business of the Year

Innovative Business of the Year

Tourism Business of the Year

Agro-Business of the Year

Georgian Product of the Year

People’s Choice

Business of the Year

The companies competing for the People’s Choice Awards entered an online voting marathon, which gave the public the chance to vote for their favorite business.

TBC Bank and Geocell both helped the participant companies in their marketing campaigns, which resulted in massive social media coverage.

The award design – symbolizing unlimited possibilities – was made by Zviad Tsikolia, a famous Georgian designer.

“The Business Awards Project is a huge success! More than a million people were engaged in the project through social media and other platforms,” said Nika Kurdiani, deputy CEO of TBC Bank. “The hashtag Gaaziare Tsarmateba (Share Success) was used over 100,000 times, which allows me to say that our aim to promote the notion of business-making, support start-ups and medium and small scale enterprises worked extremely well, and it’s the public involvement that made it possible. We have to grow and expand this community of people further each year.”

“Initially, when the idea of the Business Awards was first brought up at TBC Bank, I was hesitant, as I wasn’t sure that people would be interested,” admitted Vakhtang Butskhrikidze, CEO of TBC Bank. “But I was proven wrong. Each of the participants is a leader who not only shares a success story, but inspires others. I hope that next year, together with our partner Geocell, we will see even more companies involved and engaged, both as participants and as organizers of the Business Awards. I would like to thank the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, Entrepreneurship Development Agency, and Geocell, of course, for their partnership and support,” Butskhrikidze said.

First Vice President of Georgia Dimitry Kumsishvili, thanked TBC Bank and TBC Group, highlighting that they are “always one step ahead in all initiatives,” particularly when it concerns assisting various business entrepreneurship programs and projects.

“TBC Bank is our main partner in developing medium and small scale enterprises. We have made considerable achievements so far, with ten thousand workplaces and a 470 million investment potential created, but we want to achieve much more,” Kumsishvili said. “I believe that, with projects like the Business Awards, we’ll stimulate the creation of new companies and new ideas, which will ultimately lead to more employment opportunities and benefit the economic growth of our country.”

Kumsishvili then announced the winner of the Small Business of the Year category – White Studio, a company that produces ceramic products from Georgian white clay.

“But everyone is a winner today,” said Ivane Matchavariani, the commercial director of Geocell. “It’s impossible not to recognize the efforts each of the participants. I have no doubt they each have a bright future ahead,” he said, before announcing the Geocell prize for Innovative Business of the Year category, BiochimPharm a manufacturer of biological preparations for treatment using bacteriophages. The lucky winner will be attending the Innovation Summit in Lisbon in 2017, a massive event that brings together more than 1000 companies and investors from around the world.

Deputy Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development of Georgia, Ketevan Bochorishvili, emphasized that tourism is a top priority for Georgia and spoke about the importance of introducing and supporting successful business companies and entrepreneurs. Barbarestan, a family-owned Georgian restaurant, was then declared the winner in the Touristic Business category.

“Georgian production is immensely important for our country. It brings talent, information and technology exchange that increase the future potential,” said Jean-Frederic Paulsen, the chairman of the Board at ISET Georgia. “Having myself also started a business in Georgia, I can share with you that Georgia is indeed a place where you can start producing or developing your ideas and I do encourage my friends from abroad to come and invest in Georgia.”

He went on to announce the winner for the Georgian Product of the Year category – Badagi, the company producing Churchkhela, a Georgian snack.

Anna Kvaratskhelia, the director of the Entrepreneurship Development Agency of Georgia, said she was delighted to see TBC Bank and Geocell’s joint initiative. She announced the winner in the category Agro-business of the Year – BPC, a juice company.

Kings, an educational management company, was named winner in the People’s Choice Category, announced by Ako Akhalaia, the founder of and the marketing director at Silk Road Group. Akhalaia noted a positive and encouraging trend in Georgian media: a growing interest in covering successful business entrepreneurship stories.

Publishers Books in Batumi was competing in the same category and lost to Kings by only 17 votes. “In a very short time, Books in Batumi has achieved a 20% market share, in part due to a brilliant marketing campaign during the business awards competition, so they also deserve a very special mention and congratulations, too,” Kurdiani noted.

The final nomination for Business of the Year, Zeta Camping, was announced by Mamuka Khazaradze, chairman of TBC Bank. Zeta Camping has a camping and hotel facility in Kazbegi.

“We’re witnessing an extremely significant moment, a historic one,” he said. “A day when a new generation of businesses is born, a new wave representing the third generation of Georgian business; of people who create workplaces and employment opportunities out of a single idea; of people who, despite difficulties, made a product, established themselves on the market, built up a team of professionals and are now moving forward. The challenges they have faced included limited cash flow, lack of marketing resources, and a lack of qualified personnel. But they have succeeded. They will be major players in the field, creating a new reality in Georgia, a country with the potential to become a center of innovations and start-ups; ideas that cross the borders of our nation,” Khazaradze said.


9 June, 2017

Page Therapy could stop superbugs on farms

Researchers at Leicester University have shown that it might be possible to develop an alternative to antibiotics for treating diseases in pigs.

They have identified a range of viruses, called bacteriophages, that can be used to kill common pig infections.

The aim is to reduce the risk of antibiotic resistant bacteria emerging on farms that could also infect humans.

If trials in pigs work, the new therapy could be extended to treat people.

Prof Martha Clokie presented her interim results to a pig industry meeting in Solihull. She told BBC News that the early results indicated that phage therapy could be “completely transformative for human health”.

“There are many infections that we just can’t treat with antibiotics because they have become resistant to them. So using the phage therapy for specific diseases could change the way we treat infection. It could give us a whole new armoury.”

Scientists have been trying to develop phage treatments for more than a century but they have mostly proved to be unreliable. But Prof Clokie has found more precise ways of isolating phages and assessing their effectiveness.

The research has been funded by the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board which is responding to concerns about the possibility of so called superbugs developing in farm animals and entering the food chain. Charlotte Evans is leading the project for AHDB.

“Pig producers are responding to a pig health and welfare point of view and also reacting to consumer expectations, to help make sure we are being responsible about our antibiotic usage and ensure we safeguard them for the future,” she said.

In the UK, 40% of all antibiotics are used to treat animals. They are the same as those used to treat people.

A review published last year by Lord Jim O’Neil called for reductions in the unnecessary use of antibiotics in agriculture, especially those that were “highly critical” to human health.

Prof Clokie has shown that phage therapy can in principle offer a viable alternative to antibiotics.

Phages occur in nature and are the natural enemy of many infectious agents. There are many phages, each of which is specific to different infectious bugs. The phages home in on these agents like a guided missile. Once they find their target, they latch on to them and inject their DNA into the bug rendering it harmless.

Like all viruses, they reproduce inside the infectious bug and these new phages go on to hunt other infections

Prof Clokie and her team have identified a range of disease-killing phages, including one that disables a salmonella bug that infects pigs. Her team has shown that it works in the lab and the scientists have also developed a powdered form of the phage which remains active. This is an important step because it enables the researchers to add the phage to pig feed and see if it works in practice.

The team plans to begin trials later this year.

If the approach is found to be effective, other phage treatments could be developed for a range of animal diseases. It would also speed the development of phage treatments for people.