3M takes on blood-brain barrier with Impel Neuropharma nasal drug delivery alliance

Precision Olfactory Delivery device--Courtesy of Impel Neuropharma

3M ($MMM) announced that it is helping Impel Neuropharma develop its Precision Olfactory Delivery (POD) for delivery of neurological drugs into the brain and nervous system. The companies said the alliance leverages 3M's experience in the inhaled and nasal drug delivery arenas, in an otherwise vague release that lacked details about the nature of the partnership.

Impel says the POD device can deliver liquids or powder formulations. The company is a pure device player that seeks to outlicense its technology to academic, pharma or biotech partners.

The blood-brain barrier has proven to be among the body's most impenetrable, but Impel says its Precision Olfactory Delivery device exploits a weakness, arguing on its website that the nose-to-brain pathway lacks a significant membrane barrier. Apparently, the device can deliver more than 50% of a drug in the nose's olfactory region, compared to less than 5% from standard droppers, sprays or pumps, resulting in uptake to the central nervous system.

"We've successfully shown that the POD technology is highly effective in the clinic in our ongoing development programs and across diverse therapeutic areas including Alzheimer's disease, migraine, and pain management. We are proud to have 3M's key strategic collaboration to support the development and commercialization of the POD platform. With 3M, Impel is better able to empower researchers, physicians, patients, and their families," said Impel CEO Michael Hite in a statement.

The alliance with 3M comes on the heels of a $4 million funding haul, taking the company's total equity raised past the near the $9 million mark. Impel has not disclosed any other specific collaborators or partners listed on its website.

Last year, researchers at Canada's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health used the POD device to demonstrate that an interfering peptide designed to disrupt an interaction between dopamine receptors in the brain acted as an antidepressant when delivered across the nasal passage, at least in rats. Previously, the scientists showed that the drug worked the same way when injected directly into the brain, but this route of delivery was too invasive for clinical viability.

3M's inhaled drug delivery offerings include metered dose inhalers (including one for nasal delivery), dose counters, and inhaler components. It also conducts contract manufacturing. Last year the conglomerate joined forces with the Delaware outfit Invion to develop inhaled drugs for inflammatory airway diseases.

"Impel's POD technology provides an important solution to an unmet need in the drug delivery marketplace," said Cindy Kent, president and general manager of 3M's drug delivery unit, in a statement. "We look forward to supporting Impel as they commercialize the POD technology and expand upon 3M's leadership in developing novel approaches to major problems confronting the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries."

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