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Long-Acting Drug Start-Up Raises $4M in Seed Funds

Human machine interface

(Gerd Altmann, Pixabay.

4 Aug. 2023. A new company with a process using artificial intelligence and robotics to speed development of sustained release drugs is raising $4 million in seed funds. Persist AI, founded last year in Woodland, California, says its technology can cut the amount of time in half for developing drugs, designed for release in the body over longer periods to treat chronic diseases.

Persist AI says drug makers typically need up to five years to develop drugs that release their contents over extended periods, to treat chronic disorders such as diabetes and cancer. The vehicle for these longer-acting compounds is the polymer poly lactic-co-glycolic acid or PLGA, a biocompatible and biodegradable material with desirable physical and chemical properties for sustained release medications. PLGA can be formulated for small molecule or low molecular weight drug delivery and biologics, such as proteins, peptides, and nucleic acids. In addition, some of its physical properties can be tuned or adjusted to optimize dosage or release interval.

For extended release drugs, PLGA is formulated into microscale spheres that allow for processing into the needed drug delivery properties, such as for use with inhalers or delivery into the eye. Persist AI says this microsphere formulation stage often acts as the bottleneck in developing long-acting injectable medications. The company says its analytics use A.I. models to screen up to 500 different microsphere formulations each month. These models predict activity of different formulations in the body, and determine a minimum number of injections needed by patients. And, says Persist AI, it uses robotics to accelerate testing of new formulations.

Y Combinator participant earlier in 2023

“We complete microsphere pre-formulation for clients in weeks, not years,” says co-founder and CEO Karthik Raman in a Persist AI statement released through Cision. The company’s development so far also followed a fast track. Persist AI took part in the Y Combinator accelerator earlier this year, a three-month program for technology company founders with mentorship and training in business start-up, marketing, team building, and product development. Participants prepare for pitching their company to investors and media, as well as receive a pre-seed investment of $500,000.

Persist AI says today it raised $4 million in seed funds, led by technology investor 2048 Ventures in New York. Taking part in the round are Innospark Ventures, Fellows Fund, Pioneer Fund, and YCombinator. 2048 Ventures typically invests in pre-seed, seed-, and series A or first venture rounds.

“Drug formulation has long been overlooked despite being a crucial part of drug development,” notes Alex Iskold, managing partner of 2048 Ventures. “Persist’s technology allows them to rapidly screen formulations, develop AI models that optimize the formulations, and then scale up formulations for human clinical use.”

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