A little over two years after Lyndra Therapeutics Inc. first unveiled its technology for time-delayed drug delivery through a simple pill, the company has raised $55 million to continue developing the technology for public consumption.
By creating a new kind of ultra long-acting drug-delivery mechanism in pills, the company claims it can remove the need for patients to follow strict guidelines for taking their medication.
Following doctors’ prescriptions for medication is a problem in emerging markets and among elderly patients, and the new technology has implications for treating pretty much everything.
Developed in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology laboratory of Dr. Robert Langer, Lyndra was co-founded by Langer and Amy Schulman, a former lawyer for the pharmaceutical industry and a partner recruited to run the LS Polaris Innovation fund established by Polaris Partners in 2014 to invest in healthcare companies.
Polaris led the company’s most recent round of financing, which also included new investors like the Chinese private equity giant HOPU Investments, Gilead Sciences, Invus, Orient Life and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (which initially provided funding for Dr. Langer’s research out of MIT).
Lyndra has raised the money as it continues along the path toward developing a pill to treat schizophrenia. Phase II trials for the pill, which are required before it can be approved by U.S. regulators, are expected to begin next year. The company said it also will be developing other drug candidates that are developed internally and through partnerships over the coming years.
“Lyndra’s long-acting therapies have the potential to address a diversity of disease states,” said Robert Langer, co-founder and Board Member of Lyndra Therapeutics. “The ability to move from daily to weekly administration of an oral drug is groundbreaking. I believe Lyndra’s long-acting oral pill will be truly transformative.”
For investors like the Gates Foundation it was the company’s early work around anti-malarial drugs and HIV that likely attracted attention.
When the company first unveiled its technology back in 2016, publications like The Guardian hailed it as a breakthrough in drug delivery.
The technology depends in part on the novel structure of the pill itself. Encapsulated within a digestible pill is a star-shaped structure that has six arms folded in on itself. As stomach acid dissolves the casing for the pill the arms unfold and release their payload over time. As the star unfolds it expands in size so it can remain in the stomach rather than being pushed down the digestive tract. Eventually the arms break off and the remaining pieces of the pill are naturally expelled — like undigested food.
“People around the world depend on medications that require taking a pill every single day or even multiple times a day,” said Amy Schulman, a co-founder of Lyndra and its CEO, when the technology was first unveiled. “That approximately 50 percent of patients in the developed world do not take their medicines as prescribed, a statistic that is even more challenging in the developing world, has a demonstrable effect on healthcare outcomes and a cost estimates to the U.S. healthcare system alone of over $100 billion annually. Lyndra’s long-acting technology should make a real dent in this protracted problem and help change the lives of millions of patients who feel tethered to the daily pill.”