(From left) VenatoRx’s Christopher Burns, Daniel Pevear and Luigi Xerri//Photo by Tessa Marie Images.
Christopher Burns, Daniel Pevear and Luigi Xerri
The white freezers that line one wall of VenatoRx’s lab look like the sort Grandma had in her basement. But what’s inside would kill Grandma—and everyone around her, for that matter. Chikungunya, E. coli, pneumonia and other nasties are stored at VenatoRx, where an A-team of scientists is inventing next-generation antibiotics to kill them.
Antibiotic resistance is what’s making these bugs strong. “Just like the organisms that compose our own bodies, these bacteria are designed to fight off an attack,” says Christopher Burns, cofounder, president and chief scientific officer of VenatoRx. “They absorb information from the antibiotics and morph to stay alive.”
Biodefense is what the government calls it. If that sounds like a plotline from The Walking Dead, consider that the National Institutes of Health has awarded VenatoRx hefty grants to further its research. Ask Chipotle’s CEO how hard it is to kill E. coli.
Burns and business partners Luigi Xerri and Daniel Pevear outfitted VenatoRx’s 15,000-square-foot space with five biology and chemistry labs staffed by 32 employees. Burns says great strides have been made since the company was founded in 2010. Part of that success has been failed experiments. “If an experiment doesn’t work, we learn from it and take that knowledge to the next experiment.” he says. “It’s those failures that create our successes.”