LONDON ¿ The drug delivery start-up Vectura Ltd., of Cambridge, has secured #1.75 million (US$2.82 million) from venture capitalist Merlin Ventures Ltd.

David Gough, CEO, told BioWorld International the money will keep the company going for the next 18 to 24 months. ¿It will enable us to take our technology from confirmation of principle to selection of development candidates,¿ he said.

Vectura has reversed the usual model of forming a company around an appealing piece of technology, opting instead to survey the pharmaceutical industry¿s requirements and then find technology to fit.

Gough, formerly finance director of Powderject plc, said, ¿We took a look at the needs of the industry, and then assessed what technology there was to satisfy these requirements. This means that from the start the company has a good commercial proposition, focused on market needs. It is unusual to start up companies in this way, but it obviously makes sense.¿

The company has licensed-in and is developing three platform technologies: polymer therapeutics; bio-peptides; and Lipoburst. The details of the first two have not been disclosed; Lipoburst uses antibodies to target a lipase enzyme to disease sites. Subsequently, drugs encapsulated within a liposome are released at the disease site. The technology was jointly developed by the U.K. government¿s Defence Evaluation Research Agency) and Biovation Ltd., of Aberdeen, Scotland.

Under the exclusive worldwide license, Vectura will make milestone and royalty payments on pharmaceuticals developed using Lipoburst, while Biovation will continue the development of the technology.

¿In summary, we are aiming not just to target drugs using a delivery system, we will also enable them to be actively released at the site of action,¿ Gough said. He noted site specificity is a primary requirement of many existing compounds and of new classes of small molecules, therapeutic proteins and peptides and gene therapy.

Vectura aims to prove its technology with off-patent drugs in the cancer and anti-inflammatory areas. ¿When you look at the way the drug delivery business works, to get a partner in you have to prove your technology,¿ he said. ¿We will take drugs that have gone off-patent and aim to improve their therapeutic performance. Then people with patented drugs will be prepared to put them into our system.

¿I know from experience that the pharmaceutical industry will not look at advanced drug delivery systems for drugs in development because they do not want to add to the risk,¿ he added.

Vectura has 12 people, who are not all company staff, working on its projects. It expects to have around 16 people by the end of year, when it will also have its own laboratories. n

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