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Needleless Delivery Start-Up Lands $11M First-Round Funding

Ian Hunter

Ian Hunter (Mass. Institute of Technology)

15 October 2014. Portal Instruments Inc., a new enterprise developing needless injections for biologic therapies and other medications, raised $11 million in its first round of venture funding. Financing for the Cambridge, Massachusetts company was led by the Sunrise division of drug maker Sanofi, venture capital company PBJ Capital, and an unnamed medical device manufacturer in the U.S.

Portal Instruments is commercializing the research of MIT engineering professor Ian Hunter, who developed a needle-free injection technology. Hunter’s lab says the technology employs an electromagnetic actuator that allows for calibrating delivery of drugs based on the nature and volume of the payload and depth of the injection under the skin. Current needle-free injection techniques with springs or compressed gases use a single-jet delivery with no control over the pressure applied to the drug, which the lab says at high velocities can damage large-protein protein molecules.

The company has an exclusive license from MIT for Hunter’s drug delivery technology. The invention first delivers a high-speed pulse to break the skin and inject the drug to the desired depth, followed by a lower-speed and gentler delivery of the drug payload, which helps protect formulations sensitive to high pressure.

Hunter’s lab says it is conducting feasibility tests of the technology with vaccines and biologic therapies delivered in various kinds of tissue and organs.  Portal says the technology is suited for administering biologic therapies that can be viscous in consistency.

Sanofi’s Sunrise division, the funding round leader, seeks out partners to develop new kinds of life science products and co-invests in early stages rather than licensing technologies directly for internal development. Portal Instruments is the third investment for Sunrise, joining life-science start-ups WarpDrive Bio and MyoKardia.

“Portal Instruments provides us with a unique opportunity to deliver medicines in formulations that are currently not possible with needle-based devices in a highly controllable needle-free drug delivery system,” says Katherine Bowdish, who heads the Sunrise division, in a company statement. “For patients this may allow them to choose a way to take their medicines if they prefer not to have a needle-based device, or to choose needle-free self-administration at home of some medicines typically delivered in centralized health care facilities.”

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