RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Advanced Chemotherapy Technologies (ACT), a medical device startup developing a way to improve the treatment of pancreatic cancer, has added $2.5 million in funding to support clinical testing of its technology.

The investment from Spectrum Financial extends the $5.5 million Series A round of funding that ACT announced last November.

The technology of Raleigh-based ACT is a drug delivery system. The device, code-named ACT-IOP-003, is about the size of a quarter. Implanted in the pancreas, it employs a technique called iontophoresis, which involves running a mild electric current. That current drives gemcitabine, a type of chemotherapy, into the tumor. This approach is intended to be a more targeted way of delivering a drug to the spot where it’s needed.

The ACT device was developed from research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, from which the startup licensed the technology. That work was funded by grants from the University Cancer Research Fund, the National Institutes of Health, and the NIH Director’s Pioneer Award Program.

UNC conducted preclinical tests of the device. The results from those mouse studies showed that pancreatic tumors treated with the device shrunk by an average of 40%. In mice treated with intravenously administered gemcitabine, the drug was able to slow the rate of growth. But the tumors still grew by 240%.

ACT formed in 2014. Three years later, the company was awarded a $250,000 grant from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center’s Small Business Innovation and Research program. That money supported the company’s efforts to advance its research into human testing.

Tony Voiers, ACT’s CEO, said the additional financial support from Spectrum Financial validates the company’s drug delivery approach and accelerates the company’s ability to start clinical testing. He previously told NCBiotech that the Phase 1 study, which is slated to be done at UNC, will enroll between 12 and 18 patients.

The financing announced last November was led by Khosla Ventures, a Menlo Park, California-based venture capital firm that spreads its investments across a broad swath of technology fields, including the life sciences. Omaha-based Spectrum Financial invests in both public and private companies in different industries.

“We are excited to invest behind ACT to help bring their first product to market,” Bryan Martin, Spectrum Financial’s chief investment officer said in a prepared statement. “ACT-IOP-003 is disruptive technology that will change the cancer treatment landscape and lead to breakthroughs for patients.”

(C) N.C. Biotech Center