Dow Chemical has signed over its entire portfolio of intellectual property and technology in the area of dendrimers - branched polymers with applications in targetted drug delivery - to US firm Dendritic NanoTechnologies and Starpharma of Australia.
At a stroke, the move elevates DNT to a leading position in dendrimers, which are causing significant interest in the drug industry because of their ability to carry multiple compounds, including active ingredients, targetting groups such as antibodies and marker molecules. In-PharmaTechnologist.com recently reported on the use of just such a dendrimer to deliver a gene therapy in an animal model of cancer.
Under the terms of the deal, Dow is making its entire intellectual property portfolio and associated royalties in the dendrimer field (196 patents comprising 41 patent families) to DNT in exchange for a 'significant' equity stake in the company, thought to be around 31 per cent. Starpharma already holds a 42 per cent interest in DNT, will make an additional cash equity investment in the company in exchange for exclusive access to the intellectual property for pharmaceutical applications.
DNT has its own portfolio of more than 30 patents in dendrimer science, and already sells and licenses more than 200 variations of dendrimers to pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and diagnostics companies.
DNT's current product development areas include protein, antibody, and anti-inflammatory drug delivery technologies for the pharmaceutical industry; small-interfering RNA (siRNA) drug targeting and delivery solutions for the biotech industry; and new diagnostic solutions for enhancing the findings of magnetic resonance imaging.
Meanwhile, in January 2004, Starpharma became the first company in the world to initiate human clinical testing of a dendrimer-based pharmaceutical - the topical microbicide VivaGel (SPL7013 gel) for the prevention of HIV - in the US.
Commenting on the agreement, Josh Wolfe, managing partner of nanotechnology venture capital firm Lux Capital, said that the use of dendrimer nanoparticles for drug delivery has a lot of potential.
"Big pharma has been in big trouble. They've spent investor money developing drugs with increasingly little returns and imprecise delivery vehicles. One clear way to deliver better performance is better delivery of drugs," said Wolfe, adding that the Dow patents and expertise will push this technology closer to market.