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March 28, 2022 Startups, Innovation & Technology

Farmington startup Bactana developing drugs to combat diabetes in pets, potentially humans

PHOTO | CONTRIBUTED Bactana Corp. Head of Research Simon McManus (left), with John Kallassy, the company’s founder, CEO and financial officer.

Entrepreneur John Kallassy’s startup Bactana Corp. is just where he wants it to be.

Kallassy — who previously sold two companies, including a cardiac device business to 3M Health Care — said he usually stays at a company for about eight years to help get its products to market before selling it.

His latest venture, Bactana Corp., could be on a similar path. The development-stage animal health company, which he originally formed in collaboration with Cornell University, is working to create sustainable products that improve animal health. The company also works on diabetic drugs and supplements for pets and humans.

Kallassy founded Bactana in May 2017, and it has been part of UConn’s Technology Incubation Program since 2019, operating out of lab space in Farmington.

The company is preparing to get its first product — Pawsni Glucose Control, a supplement for pets aimed at treating diabetes and other diseases — launched this spring in Canada and France.

“We started in Canada because it was a smaller market and we thought it was easier,” said the 56-year-old Avon resident.

Pawsni will be distributed in Canada and France primarily through veterinarians, and Bactana has inked a distribution deal with a French company called ArcaNatura.

The next step would be launching Pawsni in the U.S., once all necessary approvals are in hand, a process that will take about a year, Kallassy said.

Bactana has performed in vitro experiments and 12 animal trials in livestock, cats and mice, and safety trials in dogs, Kallassy said.

Addressing a need

Kallassy has been in the life sciences field for most of his professional life. He studied biology and chemistry at the State University of New York at Brockport; pharmacology at Leeds in England; and business at Cornell University.

Bactana works to isolate molecules produced by good bacteria and then use them as drugs or treatments for animals and potentially humans.

Kallassy’s company uses two UConn Technology Incubation Program labs and has three full-time employees and several consultants/advisors.

This year is off to a promising start.

Besides the upcoming product launch, Kallassy said he was notified in February that his company will receive a stage 1, $256,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to further study why the active ingredient in Pawsni — a collection of small peptides and other molecules known as FPZ-100 — is able to reduce blood glucose levels in diabetic and prediabetic mice. The hope is the treatment could have a similar effect on humans.

If successful in stage 1, Kallassy can apply for stage 2 NSF grant funding of up to $1.5 million.

“If we got that grant, it would position us for the development of a human drug” that might be able to combat metabolic diseases like diabetes and fatty liver disease, he said.

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), diabetes is one of the world’s greatest health concerns, with an estimated 40% of American adults having either prediabetes or diabetes.

In addition, according to, as of 2019, an estimated 463 million people had diabetes worldwide, with Type 2 diabetes making up about 90% of that number.

Meantime, one in every 300 dogs, and one in 230 cats will develop diabetes during their lifetimes, according to Vetsource.

Bactana has raised $1.7 million and received about $500,000 in grants since its inception, said Kallassy. In addition, the company just launched a $500,000 capital campaign.

“We have so many inflection points over the next 12 months that we think will make us very valuable,” he said. Funding goes toward sales and research and development.

“Our biggest success story to date is our discovery that our active material has the ability to treat or cure prediabetes and diabetes,” Kallassy said.

Bactana’s investors include the University of Connecticut Innovation Fund, Connecticut Innovations, Cornell University, Aimers Venture Partners, and Sustainable Income, among others.

Sell or raise capital

Bactana is also growing.

Kallassy said he hopes to hire three more full-time people this year, which would double his current workforce.

At some point in the not-too-distant future, Kallassy said he’d like to move out of the UConn TIP offices, but stay in the state.

In the next year or two, he said, the strategy is “to merge with someone else or raise sufficient capital to expand greatly ourselves.”

Glastonbury veterinarian Chip Beckett, who has watched Bactana’s growth from afar, said the company’s glucose control product Pawsni shows promise in handling insulin resistance in pets. (His pet patients have never tested the drug.)

Like their human owners, he said, an increasing number of pets are obese and have become Type 2 diabetics, or are insulin resistant.

“If there was an effective product … to regulate glucose levels in the blood of the insulin resistant and diabetics, it would dramatically improve the lives of the pets and their owners that provide the treatments,” Beckett said. “If it works in animals, humans likely will respond similarly, so human health can improve.”

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