Editor’s note: WRAL TechWire and the Council for Entrepreneurial development are partnering to present a series of profiles and Q&As featuring companies startups and emerging companies participating in the CED’s annual Life Science conference coming up Feb. 28-March 1 in Raleigh. The latest profile is Raleigh-based Agile Sciences.

Agile Sciences

  • Web site: http://www.agilesci.com
  • CEO: Malcolm Thomas
  • Contact information: mthomas@agilesci.com
  • Sub-sector: Biotech and Pharmaceutical                                                           
  • Headquarters: Raleigh, NC
  • Year Founded: 2007
  • Video overview: https://vimeo.com/203350439


Agile Sciences is developing a more effective therapeutic strategy for treating multidrug resistant (MDR) bacterial infections. The company’s core technology consists of a new class of 2-aminoimidazole (2-AI) small molecules that inhibit bacterial defense mechanisms through a novel non-biocidal mode of action resulting in enhanced antibiotic activity by inhibiting and dispersing bacterial communities, known as biofilms, and restoring antibiotic susceptibility in drug resistant infections. Agile Sciences is targeting three therapeutic areas:

1) treatment of MDR bacterial infections;

2) treatment of lung infections in cystic fibrosis (CF) patients; and

3) treatment of chronic wound infections.


  • Malcolm Thomas, CEO
  • Dr. John Cavanagh, Founder and CSO
  • Dr. Christian Melander, Founder and CRO


  • Funding: $14.6MM from grants and contracts
  • Seven new issued patents
  • Received $3.7MM small business contract from NIH
  • Received four small business grants totaling $4.5MM from NIH
  • Received $50k of matching funds from NC One program
  • Successfully advanced three programs into efficacy testing in relevant animal model
  • Agile Sciences has been awarded >$12.8M in small business grants and contracts from NIH, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and Bay Area Lyme Foundation
  • Featured in numerous conferences including BIO International Convention, NC Ag Biotech Entrepreneurial Showcase, Antimicrobial Resistance
  • Also featured at several RESI conferences and made presentations or chaired a panel at Regulatory conferences in Cary (2015/2016)


CED, NC State Office of Technology Transfer


  • What is the primary pain point you are seeking to address?

Agile Sciences is trying to address the issue of antimicrobial resistance. By 2050, the cost of antimicrobial resistance will be 300 million premature deaths and $100 trillion dollars lost to the global economy. This is a huge problem that is getting worse because we’re in a losing battle against drug resistant superbugs. Every time we figure out a new antibiotic to throw against these superbugs, they figure out what we’re hitting them with, work together to acquire new defenses, and get nastier. So we’re locked in a perpetual arms race.

  • What sets your company apart? What’s the “secret sauce”?

At Agile Sciences, we’re developing a revolutionary approach to fighting these superbugs by taking out their cellular communications system so they can’t protect themselves. We’re developing a novel therapeutic that targets their ability to sense and respond to the environment through inhibition of two component systems. This blocks their ability to get messages out from their central base so when we hit them with a nuke, in our case an antibiotic, they can’t defend themselves.

What’s really game changing about this approach is that we’re not hitting them with an upgraded, next generation antibiotic that they’re likely to evolve resistance to in a year. Instead, we’re knocking out their communications system so they’re essentially blind, sitting ducks. This approach makes our existing antibiotics effective again.

  • Why should investors be interested in your company? What is the potential market size?

We’ve shown proof of concept that this technology works in animal studies. Over the past year, we have developed compounds that are 10 times more potent, and we’re currently assessing these in animal trials.

We’re targeting this technology towards multidrug resistant infections, and we’ve received over $10 million in small business grant funding. We believe this technology will have a large impact on $42B antibiotic market.