CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — A startup focused on a drug to battle congestive heart failure has already landed $500,000 in seed financing and is hunting for millions more.

NanoCor Therapeutics, a spin-off of Chapel-Hill based Asklepios BioPharmaceutical, launched operations in November.

The company is already involved in large animal studies and expects to file an investigational new drug application with the US Food and Drug Administration within the next 24 months, according to Sheila Mikhail, a co-founder and chief executive officer of the firm.

NanoCor’s lead drug candidate is called Carfostin. It is designed to combat congestive heart failure and can be delivered intravenously or via a catheter.

Congestive heart failure afflicts 5 million Americans, according to the American Heart Association. Of those afflicted, 75 percent die within eight years of diagnosis. Some 500,000 people are diagnosed with congestive heart failure each year. One means to counter congestive heart failure is a heart transplant, and some 2,300 transplants are performed a year, according to figures cited by NanoCor.

“NanoCor’s technology will provide new hope to patients with congestive heart failure by providing a cost-effective, long-term, and minimally invasive therapeutic solution, which is unique from any other therapeutic currently available or under development,” said Mikhail in a statement.

NanoCor currently has three employees. Its first funding came from an out-of-state angel investor, Mikhail told WRAL Local Tech Wire. She also confirmed the company is seeking an additional $5 million in financing to fund two years of operations and the launching of Phase I and II drug trials.

NanoCor was among companies making presentations at the recent SoutheastBio venture conference in Charleston, SC. Since then, Mikhail said, the company “is in the process of talking to many venture capitalists.”

The company has also secured an unspecified amount of additional funding through the National Institute of Health and other sources.

Carfostin is based on research doe by three doctors, including Richard Samulski of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Also involved are Litsa Kranias of the University of Cincinnati and Roger Hajjar of Harvard University.

According to the company, Carfostin will deliver a proprietary gene to the heart muscle cells utilizing biological nanoparticles.

“Once in the heart, Carfostin provides long-term therapeutic benefits by using the heart muscle as a bioreactor to provide sustained protein expression,” the company said in a statement. “NanoCor’s proprietary gene is unique in that it improves not only the contractibility of the heart, but also addresses remodeling of the heart cell walls.”

NanoCor has also secured the rights to a number of patents related to the drug and the biological nanoparticles platform.

Mikhail remains CEO of Asklepios.