A new player in the nanoparticle drug-delivery game has arrived. Toronto-based DLVR Therapeutics raised seed funds from MaRS Innovation, bringing the upstart's total seed support to $2 million and fueling development of its nanoparticle programs for delivering chemo drugs and RNA-interference therapies, the company said.
The company was founded this year on technology developed by Dr. Gang Zheng of the University Health Network (UHN) in Toronto. MaRS Innovation joins the upstart's other investors, UHN and Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, and MaRS CEO Raphael Hofstein has joined the board of directors at DLVR in connection with the deal. Parimal Nathwani, a VP at MaRS, is joining the start-up to work on business development.
DLVR has big plans for its high density lipoprotein-like nanoparticle technology. The company is working on using the tiny particles to transport small molecule chemo drugs and siRNAs, which are nucleic acids, to targeted cells. These are two important areas in drug delivery. Nanoparticles offer a way to bring potent doses of chemo drugs to cancer cells while limiting impacts on healthy cells. For RNA-based drugs, the nano-carriers can be designed to home in on specific cells where the therapies are needed to silence disease genes.
The upstart faces some competition as it endeavors to find partners that want to tap its delivery capabilities. Cambridge, MA-based Cerulean Pharmaceuticals, a venture-backed biotech firm, has nanotech programs for delivering chemo drugs and RNAi therapies as well. Also based in Cambridge, Merrimack Pharmaceuticals has its own nano-formulated chemo drug in late-stage development for pancreatic cancer.
Frank Gleeson, DLVR's president and CEO, says that his company has something special. "Our nanoparticles offer a unique and selective delivery of the payload to the cytosol of the intended target reducing undesired side effects," he said in a statement. "MaRS Innovation has recognized this great potential and its investment enables us to accelerate our efforts to advance a chemotherapeutic candidate into IND-enabling studies."
- here's the release