Nanotechnology products from Liquidia Technologies will first find their way to most Americans in medicine. The company’s proprietary method of making nanoparticles enables targeted drug delivery of medicines and vaccines.
While Liquidia CEO Neal Fowler believes the technology will transform drug delivery around the world, he says his Resarch Triangle Park company sees greater opportunities beyond medicine. Vaccines are Liquidia’s first target but the company’s platform technology has applications in materials science.
Liquidia is now in a a partnership with Proctor & Gamble (NYSE:PG) expected to bring the technology to an array of consumer products.
“If we do our jobs right, our technology will be in arms length of just about everybody in the United States,” Fowler said.
Fowler spoke today at the Nanotech Commercialization Conference in Durham, an event coordinated by the Center of Innovation for Nanobiotechnology, or COIN.
Fowler said he couldn’t discuss details of the P&G deal. But he did say that these kinds of deals are examples of nanotechnology’s broad potential, which will eventually eclipse biotechnology in size and scope. Dr. Charles Hamner, chairman of The Hamner Institutes for Health Sciences in RTP, said that nanotechnology will be up to three times larger than biotechnology because nanotechnology spans across many industries.
Liquidia is among North Carolina’s biggest nanotechnology successes so far. Based on technology developed by Joseph DeSimone, a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill chemistry professor, the company’s PRINT technology allows for the manufacture of nanoparticles of particular size and shape. In nanomedicine, the size and shape of a particle determines how it is taken up by the cells of the human body. The technology’s potential so impressed Bill Gates that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation invested $10 million in Liquidia last year, the foundation’s first life science investment.
The nanomedicine applications comes as both a blessing and a curse for Liquidia and other nanotechnology companies. While the targeted drug and vaccine delivery will help patients, Fowler said that those applications also mean that people lump nanotechnology companies together with biotech firms. That hurts an early stage company talking with potential investors who are steering clear of life science investments, Fowler said. But Liquidia doesn’t make adjuvant or antigen for vaccines. The company’s technology helps deliver existing vaccines more effectively.
“Nanotechnology has to do with size, not the stuff it’s made out of,” he said.
Fowler said he couldn’t discuss specifics of Liquidia’s P&G partnership. But he said that the deal is part of the company’s strategy. From the universe of nanotechnology applications, Liquidia first chose one — vaccines. The company has since had clinical trial success and struck partnerships with groups to develop malaria and pneumonia vaccines.
Now that the technology has achieved some validation, the company is looking to broaden its application beyond vaccines. That means deals with “blue chip partners” like P&G. Fowler said the wide array of nanotechnology applications will eventually lead the company into a decision: Continue striking more partnerships and deals or spin off new nanotechnology companies?