SILVER has had a variety of uses through history but now it is being used in the fight against hospital superbug MRSA after shareholders pumped £500,000 into a Scottish life sciences company to develop a new germ-killing cream.
Ayr-based Giltech already has permission from medical regulators to start clinical trials of the cream, which it hopes to carry out in Scotland.
Chief executive Gillian Watson, a former investment banker at Morgan Stanley and Standard Chartered, hopes that the treatment will be available to use within four years.
“People can carry around the MRSA bacteria in their noses, armpits or groins without it doing them any harm,” explained Watson. “But if someone in hospital picks up the bug and they’re susceptible then it can cause big problems.
“Health boards have introduced MRSA tests for patients going into hospitals for routine operations, such as hip replacements. If you are found to be carrying the bacteria then you’re given a cream to use for several days.”
Watson said that the current creams on the market use antibiotics to kill MRSA, but this can cause problems as the bacterium can develop a resistance to these agents.
Giltech’s cream uses silver rather than antibiotics to kill the bugs, a technique that the company has used to develop a special soap already being used in hospitals.
Watson believes the development of the cream will help to grow Giltech’s turnover from about £1 million at present to about £10m in five to ten years time.
The firm, which has 11 staff and is chaired by veteran life sciences entrepreneur Kevin Moore, is also branching out into making silver-based chemicals for use in household cleaners and other industrial applications.
Investors in the company include Glasgow-based private equity firm Barwell, Scottish Enterprise and former Petrofac vice-chairman Mike Stacey, along with founder Tom Gilchrist and his family.
Giltech’s clients already include New York-listed Covidien and Aspen Medical, a Worcestershire-based medical device maker that was bought last month for $400m (£257m) by another American listed healthcare company, Hill-Rom.
Linda Hanna, company growth director at Scottish Enterprise, said: “We’ve been working closely with Giltech to provide support and investment to help the company grow and maximise potential for its latest innovative infection control product.”
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