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Drug Development from the Bottom Up
CHORI Start-Up Company Receives First Patent

“We were talking about it one day and we were both thinking that it was kind of funny that nobody ever thought about using HDL to carry something other than cholesterol.”

Sometimes, the most obvious and least noticed ideas are the ones that prove to be the most revolutionary. In this case, that’s exactly what Michael Oda, PhD and Robert Ryan, PhD, are hoping, two CHORI scientists whose little idea has just gone big with the creation of Lypro Biosciences, Inc., a CHORI-supported start-up company that uses nanoscale particles bound by high density lipoprotein (HDL) to improve drug delivery. Drs. Ryan and Oda refer to these particles as nanodisks.

While everyone knows about HDL as the “good guy” in the overall cholesterol picture, what most don’t realize is that what makes it a good guy is not that it’s “good” cholesterol, but that it transports cholesterol to “good” places in the body, where cholesterol can be metabolized. It was exactly that element of HDL that Drs. Oda and Ryan hoped to harness, by loading hydrophobic drugs some of which are highly toxic onto HDL, which is highly soluble.

“Imagine putting oil into water. Because oil is hydrophobic, it aggregates together, forming one big globule,” explains Dr. Oda. “That’s what happens in the blood as well. These hydrophobic drugs form a buttery-like complex that is not well tolerated by the body.”

Such aggregation of a drug can trigger immune responses or cause the drug to be filtered out of the blood stream, by the kidneys and liver, where they become concentrated and cause high toxicity as a result. If loading the drugs onto HDL could turn that insoluble butter-like aggregate into something more compatible with the body’s chemistry, Drs. Oda and Ryan thought they might be able to make those highly toxic drugs both safer and more effective by making them soluble.

But Drs. Oda and Ryan needed funding to find out if their idea could become scientific reality, so they submitted a small proposal to CHORI Ventures, a subsidiary of CHORI developed in order to encourage and support scientist-driven novel technology.

“Beyond the general genesis of an idea, you have to prove that it works, and CHORI provided the funds we needed for our proof of principle research,” says Dr. Oda. “Lypro Bioscience couldn’t have had a better birthplace than CHORI.”

Through CHORI Ventures, Drs. Oda and Ryan were able to get enough funding to move their idea forward and determine not only proof of principle, but that their idea was patentable.
“It turns out that when you pre-load normally hydrophobic compounds onto the nanodisk that instead of a buttery consistency, the compound is completely integrated into the bloodstream, fully aqueous and soluble.”
As a result, Drs. Oda and Ryan, with CHORI Venture’s support, have applied for patents in markets worldwide.

“It’s a very broad patent that covers the entire spectrum of lipid protein complexes as a carrier vehicle for biologically active compounds,” explains Dr. Oda.

And with it, Drs. Oda and Ryan hope to revolutionize the hydrophobic drug market.

“In our first iteration of this invention, we’ve taken an anti-fungal agent that is normally very toxic, and improved both its toxicity and its therapeutic potency,” says Dr. Oda. “Those two factors combined indicate that the vehicle itself has added a great deal to the overall effectiveness and safety of the drug.”

Further research continues to move from proof of concept all the way to pre-clinical evaluations. Under their Small Business Innovation Research grants, NIH provides funding for preclinical research. Drs. Oda and Ryan have already secured their second NIH SBIR grant, currently in phase 2.

“We’re looking at a number of different compounds in addition to the anti-fungal drug – anti cancer drugs, Alzheimer’s drugs, and anti-inflammatory agents,” says Dr. Oda. “These are just the broad areas we’re looking and we’ve been having formulation success with a number of compounds.”

Because of the potential of the platform, Drs. Oda and Ryan, with the leadership of Michelle Stecklein Call as CEO, have secured funding and support from Life Science Angels, a very special group of Angel investors – a collective of experienced individuals with expertise in a wide variety of life science markets. With the continued help and support of CHORI and Life Science Angels, Drs. Oda and Ryan hope to secure the venture capital funding or industry partnership that will take Lypro Biosciences the rest of the way from a little idea to a big difference in the world of hydrophobic drugs.

“With our antifungal technology alone, we’re curing infections like Leishmania otherwise known as “The Baghdad Boil”, which is normally very difficult to treat and we’re doing it with more potent formulas that appear to be even safer than what’s currently available,” says Dr. Oda.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011 8:19 AM

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