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MORRISVILLE, N.C. – In the lab at Liquidia, the focus is on particles that can’t even be seen.
“In our most basic sense, we make nanoparticles,” said Neal Fowler, CEO of
The work Liquidia is doing in Morrisville could revolutionize drugs and vaccines, Fowler said.
“Through this engineering process you have the ability to aim and target these particles to go where you want with the drug loaded in them,” he said.
Liquidia was founded by University of North Carolina professor Dr. Joe DeSimone. His research brings the worlds of computer chips and medicine together.
Using the same shot and nasal spray delivery, DeSimone figured out how to precisely engineer nanoparticles to take a small amount of vaccine and make it go a long way.
“Many more people will be able to be treated and protected with our technology,” DeSimone said.
Because the particles can be flexible and shaped different ways, this technology also allows drugs to be personalized and targeted for a specific disease, such as cancer.
“The particles get inside and like a Trojan horse, they release a chemotherapy agent and the cells die,” DeSimone said.
Fowler said the technology allows them to use less of each drug because “it’s going directly to the site where you want it go to, which ultimately should lead to less side effects for patients.”
With a new $20 million influx of investor financing, Liquidia is now focusing on this vaccine breakthrough. The company hopes to start human trials by the end of the year.
“We’re probably spending two-thirds of our time right now exclusively focused on building a vaccine capability,” Fowler said.
With the length of clinical trials and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration pipeline, Liquidia expects the first of its drugs to be available in about four years.
Nanotechnology has a multitude of uses outside of delivering drugs, so Liquidia expects other companies and jobs to be created in Research Triangle Park, as a result of this researcher breakthrough.
Liquidia announced its new round of financing on Monday. Investors in the Series C round included Canaan Partners, which led the round, along with RTP-based Pappas Ventures and Morningside Venture Investments Limited. All are new investors.
Previous investors New Enterprise Associates and Firelake Capital also participated.
Canaan Partners’ Stephen Bloch and Morningside’s Isaac Cheng, both medical doctors, joined Liquidia’s board as part of the deal.
(Contributing to this reporter were reporter Debra Morgan, Web editor Kathy Hanrahan and photographers Mark Simpson and Rick Armstrong.)