University Launches Startups to Commercialize Promising New Drug Delivery Systems


MACON/ATLANTA/SAVANNAH – Two startup companies have been launched at Mercer University to commercialize promising new drug delivery systems developed in the labs of University research scientists.

SynPloid LLC, formed by Dr. Edward Perkins and Dr. Amy Greene, associate professor and assistant professor, respectively, in the Mercer School of Medicine, is focused on bioengineering solutions for complex biological problems using a synthetic chromosome system. One application of this new system allows for delivery of genetic material, including multiple encoded chemotherapeutic agents, in a targeted manner to directly attack tumor cells while not harming healthy normal tissue. Dr. Perkins' lab is currently focused on applying this new gene/drug delivery technology in treatment of certain forms of breast cancer as well as orphan genetic diseases.

Dr. Perkins' research program is currently funded by two grants from the National Institutes of Health and a Department of Defense Advance Research Program Award (DARPA). The DARPA award represents a collaborative partnership to develop further new applications for the synthetic chromosome gene/drug delivery system. 

The Perkins research program has completed a Phase I DARPA award, which provided proof of concept for engineering of multiple, large genetic payloads onto the synthetic chromosome. It is now in the Phase II DARPA process, which provides funding for the company startup, expansion of the gene/drug delivery system applications and development of commercialization strategies.

DD Therapeutics, formed by College of Pharmacy researchers Dr. Kevin Murnane, assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences, Dr. Ajay K. Banga, chair and professor of pharmaceutical sciences and co-director of the Center for Drug Delivery Research, and Dr. Martin D'Souza, professor of pharmaceutical sciences and co-director of the Center for Drug Delivery Research, is developing new transdermal and nanotechnology-based delivery systems that will provide more stable and sustained dosing with less fluctuations and variability in drug levels and improved drug delivery to the central nervous system.

Potential therapeutic applications include improved treatment in a variety of neurological diseases such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, substance dependence, narcolepsy and appetite suppression. 

Patent applications for these new drug delivery technologies have been filed, and DD Therapeutics is now a startup company focused on development and commercialization of these technologies. DD Therapeutics has submitted a Georgia Research Alliance Ventures Phase One proposal and also is pursuing grant applications with the National Institutes of Health, including Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer awards.

In another business development to come out of Mercer research labs, the University has entered into a licensing agreement with Kiromic Inc., a biotechnology company based in Houston, Texas. The licensing agreement is centered on the patented vaccine and drug delivery technologies developed in the research lab of Dr. D'Souza. 

Dr. D'Souza has developed novel biodegradable nanoparticle vaccine and drug delivery systems. The systems contain potential cancer vaccines to stimulate a patient's own immune system to recognize developing cancers as foreign molecules and eradicate the cancer cells before they grow into tumors. The vaccines also are being tested to treat infectious diseases.