The New Polymer Drugs--They're Not Just for Delivery Anymore
This article was originally published in Start Up
Polymers have long been useful as critical components in delivering or stabilizing a variety of medicines. Now a small band of companies that includes Genzyme, Ilypsa and Midway Pharmaceuticals is going one step further: they are designing polymers that aren't just inert drug delivery vehicles, but are themselves therapeutic agents.
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When Amgen bought Ilypsa last summer, it kept one of its non-absorbed polymer drug candidates for itself, leaving Ilypsa's other candidates in limbo. Key Ilypsa employees and investors wanted to carry out those programs, and with Amgen's blessing, they moved swiftly to form Relypsa Inc., which retains rights to Ilypsa's remaining pipeline and drug discovery platform. Relypsa management, all from Ilypsa, intends to continue Ilypsa's fast pace of pipeline development, with a NCE planned for entry into the clinic every year for the next three years.
Midway Pharmaceuticals Inc. has a non-antibiotic approach to the raging problem of hospital-acquired infections. Its Polymer BioShield is a high molecular weight polyethylene glycol that when ingested has a multifactorial effect in the gut. It acts as an artificial barrier in situations where a patient's own mucousal barrier has been compromised. Perhaps more importantly, it appears to affect bacterial signaling, preventing pathogens from ganging up and launching an attack.
Ilypsa is a spin-out of Symyx Technologies, a manufacturer of innovative materials for such industrial clients such as Dow Chemical and Agfa-Gevaert. The company had honed an ability to rapidly screen miniscule amounts of thousands of polymers for interesting functions. Symyx's founders quickly recognized that the company's platform was a potential therapeutic gold mine. Ilypsa was thus founded to focus on pharmaceutical applications.