University of Maryland, Baltimore and Serenta Team Up to Fight Staph Infections

June 1, 2017

–   License agreement gives Serenta exclusive rights to a vaccine for prevention of Staph aureus infections, a deadly disease leading to the hospitalization of 1.2 million Americans, affecting millions more

BALTIMORE AND GAITHERSBURG, MD, May 31, 2017 – University of Maryland (UM) Ventures announced today that the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) has granted worldwide, exclusive licensing rights for a new vaccine technology to Serenta Biotechnology, LLC, a Gaithersburg, MD-based startup. The license is based on technology co-owned by UMB and Northern Arizona University and is the basis for a multivalent vaccine against infections caused by Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterial strain often resistant to antibiotics.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that up to 80 percent of all microbial infections are chronic and others have estimated that chronic infections result in over 500,000 deaths per year in the United States alone. One of the most prevalent causes of chronic, persistent bacterial infections is Staphylococcus aureus, due in part to its ability to form antibiotic-resistant biofilms. During 2006, more than 1.2 million Americans contracted methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) infections that required hospitalization, according to epidemiological studies published in the American Journal of Infection Control.1 In addition, more than 100,000 of hospitalized patients did not survive. Furthermore, these numbers do not include non-hospitalized infected patients with MRSA or those patients with methicillin sensitive Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA) strains. Today, there is no single antibiotic effective against all S. aureus strains. These infections result in high morbidity and mortality rates and impose a huge economic burden on the healthcare industry.

“Without clinical innovations, we may see a return to the pre-antibiotic era where S. aureus bacteremia resulted in a 90 percent death rate,” said Mark Shirtliff, PhD, lead inventor, co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Serenta Biotechnology, and Professor in the UM Schools of Dentistry and Medicine. “Serenta’s collaboration with the University of Maryland has been instrumental in advancing our vision of commercializing a methicillin-sensitive and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MSSA and MRSA) vaccine.”

The licensed technology is a multivalent vaccine consisting of four specific antigens expressed when the organism exists within a biofilm, and one antigen expressed when S. aureus is in its free-floating form. In a mouse model of bone implant infection, the vaccine prevents MRSA infection following challenge; that result has not been achieved by any other vaccine to date. Using an antigen discovery platform in collaboration with UMB, Serenta plans to develop a pipeline of vaccines toward other harmful pathogens, such as Streptococcus pyogenes, Klebsiellapneumoniae and Acinetobacter baumannii.

“We’re excited to work on an intelligent new approach to vaccine development that may save lives,” said Florian Schödel, MD, PhD, co-founder and chairman of Serenta. “This approach is unique in that it stems from observations on bacterial lifestyle in the host,not just reverse genetics, recombinant antigens and individual bacteria in the test tube. We believe this will result in the development of novel means to prevent and possibly treat MRSA and MSSA infections.”

“Serenta has committed to addressing a critical area of unmet medical need worldwide,” said Phil Robilotto, DO, MBA, Chief Commercialization Officer for UM Ventures, Baltimore. “This is a strong, experienced management team and we look forward to seeing the Company advance this very important technology quickly towards clinical trials.”

About Serenta Biotechnology

Serenta Biotechnology, LLC (Serenta) is a Maryland-based company focused on the development of vaccines against chronic infections.Serenta Biotechnology has developed a novel discovery platform to identify antigens that are produced by microbial populations in chronic infections.Serenta pairs expertise in basic science, vaccine discovery, clinical trials, and biotechnology leadership to bring new vaccines from the bench to clinical trials and beyond. With its unique partnership with the University of Maryland, Baltimore, the company will maximize its commercialization potential by combining public infrastructure and technology with world leaders in private industry. 

About UM Ventures

UM Ventures is an initiative to channel the tremendous technical resources and research expertise of the University of Maryland, engaging partners in industry and social ventures to expand real world impact. By encouraging students and faculty, and by providing expert advice and business services, more discoveries will reach the market. By engaging directly with external partners, UM Ventures brings new investment, expanded markets and more start-up ventures. Visit to learn more.

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 Media contact:
Juliette Bogus
PressComm PR

Serenta Business contact:
Anushri Singhvi

1.    Jarvis, W.R., Schlosser, J., Chinn, R.Y., Tweeten, S. & Jackson, M. National prevalence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in inpatients at US health care facilities, 2006. American Journal of Infection Control35, 631-637 (2007).