Liquidia: Joseph DeSimone’s Nanotechnology Company
In May of last year, we published an article titled “What if 3D Printing Was 1000X Faster” which talked about a 3D printing company called Carbon 3D which is looking to completely disrupt 3D printing with their technology that “grows” 3D objects from a pool of liquid resin. The speed at which current 3D printing technology works at is slow. As Dr. Joseph DeSimone, the co-founder and CEO of Carbon 3D, once quipped “there are mushrooms that grow faster than 3D printed parts”. While the media became captivated over Carbon 3D when they exited stealth mode, the real magic behind this technology is Dr. DeSimone. In our article on Carbon3D, we briefly touched on one of the “other companies” he founded, Liquidia Technologies. Let’s take a closer look at Liquidia.
Founded in 2004, Liquidia Technologies has taken in around $70 million in funding so far from investors like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Siemens, and New Enterprise Associates. Liquidia has used that funding to develop their “Particle Replication In Non-Wetting Templates” platform or PRINT which is a proprietary system for precision molding of nanoparticles and microparticles. The technology uses lithographic techniques borrowed from the semiconductor industry to create molds that can produce precisely calibrated nanoparticles of virtually any size, shape and chemistry.
The ability to create engineered particles at the nanometer level is particularly useful for drug delivery applications. Liquidia gives the following example:
For example, particles in the size range of 10 nanometers – 100 nanometers are thought to be optimal for cancer therapeutics based on the ability of these particles to be restricted from exiting the normal vasculature while still penetrating tumors following systemic administration. This is commonly referred to as the Enhanced Permeability and Retention (EPR) effect.
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) took notice of Liquidia back in 2012 when they announced a broad multi-year collaboration with the potential for several hundred million dollars to be paid to Liquidia for developing certain vaccines and inhaled product candidates on the PRINT platform. Late last year, GSK exercised an option to obtain rights to develop inhaled therapeutics using Liquidia’s PRINT platform. That bodes well for Liquidia because it means that after 3 years of due diligence, GSK decided the technology was economically viable and now plans to use it for developing inhaled therapeutics products.
In addition to their relationship with GSK, Liquidia is developing their own products as well. Their lead product candidate, LIQ001, is a seasonal influenza vaccine for enhanced protection in the elderly. In a demonstration of how powerful the PRINT platform is, they were able to take LIQ001 from a concept to the clinic in just 18 months.
Liquidia has also spun out two companies so far that use their technology. The first is Envisia Therapeutics which is exploring applications of PRINT to deliver medicinal particles into the eye. The second is Lq3 Pharmaceuticals which is using PRINT to develop innovative oral health therapies. These 2 startups have taken in $25 million and $10 million in funding respectively. While not much has been heard from LQ3 since their founding in 2014 except a one-page website, Envisia has been much better about letting us know what they’ve been up to.
Founded in 2013, Envisia took in $25 million of Series A funding from many of the same investors who backed Liquidia. Their lead candidate, ENV515, is targeting glaucoma, a condition that afflicts 2.2 million people in the U.S. alone. Glaucoma is when the eye’s optic nerve becomes damaged due to increased pressure in the eye, also known as intraocular pressure (IOP). Continued damage to the optic nerve from high IOP often leads to permanent loss of vision. ENV515 has the potential to offer glaucoma patients a drug that can reduce IOP over many months after just a single administration. Here’s their product pipeline so far:
Envisia announced last month that the first patient has been dosed in the second cohort of their Phase 2 program for lead candidate ENV515.