Nanotechnology company Liquidia Technologies isn’t ready to disclose a name for its new ophthalmology-focused company nor will it say much about its eye drugs in development.

But Liquidia CEO Neal Fowler told WRAL Tech Wire that in the last six months, the company has made so much progress toward clinical testing of a new glaucoma treatment that the company thought it was the right time to signal to the market its plans to set up a dedicated, focused company in ophthalmology.

Morrisville-based Liquidia announced plans for the ophthalmology-focused spinoff today but even before the announcement, Fowler said that pharmaceutical companies had expressed interest in ophthalmic applications of Liquidia’s proprietary nanoparticle manufacturing technology. Dubbed “PRINT,” Liquidia’s technology allows for the manufacture of nanoparticles of particular size, shape and chemistry. In drugs and vaccines, controlling those parameters affects how the product is delivered to the cells of the body. It can make the delivery more targeted and reduce side effects. The technology is still making inroads into ophthalmic applications.

“Our ability to control exactly what these particles do is of great interest to this market,” Fowler said.

In the eyes, Fowler said that the PRINT technology can be used in implants that need specificity about where they are implanted. It can also be used for targeted drug delivery in the eye. Fowler declined to elaborate on the glaucoma drug that Liquidia is advancing toward clinical trials. But he did say that the company had already been working in partnership with some pharmaceutical companies on eye treatments. Confidentiality agreements prevent Fowler from disclosing them but he said that the new company, in addition to developing its own products, will also have the capability to apply the nanoparticle manufacturing technology to a partner company’s existing therapies.

London-based research firm Visiongain projects that the global market for ophthalmic drugs will reach $21.9 billion in 2015, up from $17.5 billion in 2011. Fowler puts the market for glaucoma treatments alone at about $4 billion.

Liquidia has been working on its glaucoma product within the company over the last year. The progress of that work made it clearer to Fowler of the benefits of a separate company. A new company would have its own focus from the standpoint of both research as well as clinical testing. The glaucoma treatment is expected to enter clinical trials in 2014.

Fowler added that a separate company also offers a a clearer investment path for the new ophthalmic-focused products, separate from the other nanotechnology work that Liquidia is doing. Last year, the company reached a licensing deal that gave GlaxoSmithKline exclusive rights to develop new vaccines with the technology. Liquidia is also pursuing consumer applications of its nanoparticle manufacturing technology, including products being developed through a Proctor & Gamble partnership.

While the new ophthalmology company will start with support from Liquidia, as the company grows it will need to raise money. Fowler said financial support could come from Liquidia’s existing syndicate of venture capital investors or from new investors. Liquidia’s current investors include Canaan Partners, New Enterprise Associates, Morningside Group, Pappas Ventures, Firelake Capital Management, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wakefield Group, and clinical research organization PPD.

Liquidia’s existing ophthalmic partnerships with pharmaceutical companies will continue with the new company. Fowler said the new company could also pursue additional partners who could also support the costs of developing and testing new eye therapies.

But when the spinoff becomes official on paper, it will still be hard to distinguish between Liquidia and the new company, at least at first. With an eye on avoiding duplication and maximizing efficiency, both companies will share share, management, manufacturing and some of the 60 full-time Liquidia workers who will soon split their time between the two companies. The new company will also operate initially from Liquidia’s existing space. Fowler said decisions about changes to these shared resources will be made as the company makes progress on its products.