A Triangle-based UNC spinoff company at the forefront of efforts to use nanotechnology to tackle diseases has received a $10 million investment from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Liquidia Technologies, which was founded on the discoveries of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill scientist Joseph M. DeSimone, will use the foundation’s equity investment to support the development and commercialization of safer and more effective vaccines and therapeutics.
Liquidia uses PRINT (Particle Replication in Non-wetting Templates) technology — a technique invented in DeSimone’s UNC lab — to manufacture precisely engineered nano- and microparticles with control over size, shape and chemistry. It could advance the development of vaccines to prevent diseases, such as malaria, that mainly affect people in the developing world.
“This technology has the potential to help countless people, maybe save millions of lives,” DeSimone said. “To have the Gates Foundation back our work is a heartening vindication of UNC’s effort to become a world leader in launching university-born ideas for the good of society.
“I met with Bill Gates last May and outlined how UNC researchers and Liquidia scientists essentially managed to co-opt manufacturing technologies from the computer industry to create new vaccines, medicines and methods of treating disease; the approach seemed to really grab his attention,” he said.
Neal Fowler, Liquidia’s chief executive officer, said the company was delighted the foundation had decided to join an outstanding group of investors that shared its confidence in the potential of PRINT technology to improve vaccine delivery and effectiveness. “As the field of vaccines continues to grow, success will be defined by our ability to produce and deliver highly efficacious therapies in quantities and costs that will support the global demand,” Fowler said.
The foundation made the equity investment in Liquidia as part of an initiative that commits $400 million in program-related investments to deepen the impact of its work.
“Funding innovation is a key to addressing the unmet health needs of the world’s poorest people,” said Doug Holtzman, deputy director for the foundation’s infectious diseases team. “This unique investment partnership will help us advance vaccine development as part of our commitment to help research, develop and deliver vaccines for the world’s poorest countries.”
Liquidia also recently began a first clinical trial of its lead seasonal flu candidate and reached a collaborative agreement with the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative.
DeSimone’s appointments include Chancellor’s Eminent Professor of Chemistry in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences, William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering at N.C. State University and a member of UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.
DeSimone’s work is an example of the type of research that supports the Innovate@Carolina Roadmap, a strategic plan that will fuel how important ideas created at UNC are applied for a better world. To learn more about the roadmap, visit innovate.unc.edu.