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Nanomedicine Developer Secures $7.5M Venture Funds

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15 December 2014. Cristal Therapeutics, a developer of medications formulated as nanoscale particles, raised more than €6 million ($7.5 million) in early-stage venture funds. The financing round for the company, based in Maastricht, The Netherlands, was led by Chemelot Ventures, with current seed investors Thuja Capital, BioGeneration Ventures, Nedermaas, Utrecht University Holding, and Beheer Innovatiefonds Provincie Limburg.

Cristal Therapeutics designs drugs delivered in nanoscale polymer particles — 1 nanometer equals 1 billionth of a meter — with its own process developed at University of Utrecht, also in The Netherlands, based on research by company co-founder Cristianne Rijcken. That process, known as CriPec, encloses a drug’s nanoparticles in an inert polymer shield, which when combined with various types of linking materials, make it possible to release the drug at a predetermined rate.

The company says CriPec also allows drugs to be targeted to more precisely, thus concentrating its effects and limiting adverse effects. The polymers in the nanoparticles naturally degrade and are cleared by the kidneys.

The company’s lead product is CriPec docetaxel, a nanoparticle formulation of a chemotherapy drug to treat solid tumors, such as those found in breast, lung, and prostate cancer. Docetaxel works by disrupting the internal structure of cancer cells as they rapidly divide and proliferate, leading to death of the cancer cells. CriPec docetaxel, says Cristal, makes it possible to concentrate higher doses of the drug at the cancer site, improving its effectiveness and tolerability.

Cristal says its preclinical tests of CriPec docetaxel with lab animals show the drug nanoparticles accumulate in higher concentrations and kill more cancer cells than conventional docetaxel. The company plans to use proceeds of the financing round to begin an early-stage clinical trial of CriPec docetaxel, testing its safety and clinical benefits with human subjects.

The company is also developing CriPec versions of peptides, short amino-acid chains, for delivery of biologics that would otherwise be too unstable when subject to the body’s metabolism. In addition, Cristal is testing what it calls active targeted nanoparticles that focus on connective molecules that bind to receptors and can enhance drugs designed to address specific tissues in the body. Still another program is testing a CriPec version of corticosteroids to treat inflammation, such as in arthritis. All of these subsequent products are in preclinical stages.

Chemelot Ventures, founded earlier this year and also located in Maastricht, is a venture capital company supporting life sciences start-ups, and new companies in advanced materials, located in The Netherlands. The company says it funds companies developing platform technologies as well as new products, in early and later stages of development.

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