- Unidym Forms Bioscience Unit
MENLO PARK, Calif., Mar. 21, 2008 -- Carbon nanotube maker Unidym Inc. announced this week it has formed a spinoff, Ensysce Biosciences Inc., that will focus on research into medical applications of carbon nanotubes.
Unidym, a majority-owned subsidiary of Arrowhead Research Corp., said it has licensed its nanotechnology patent portfolio to Ensysce in return for a "significant" equity position in the company. Terms of the licensing arrangement were not disclosed, but include upfront licensing fees and ongoing royalties, Unidym said. In addition, Unidym will provide contract services to Ensysce, including supplies of research-grade nanotubes, back-office and accounting support.
Through a merger in April 2007, Unidym acquired rights to the carbon nanotechnology work of the late Richard Smalley, the 1996 Nobel Laureate for Chemistry from Rice University, who was among the pioneers in considering the potential therapeutic applications for carbon nanotubes.
"Unidym's carbon nanotubes have been widely used in a variety of very promising medical therapeutic research," said Art Swift, Unidym's president and CEO. "Given the broad applicability of our IP portfolio, it was a natural move to create this spinoff company to, over time, return previously untapped value to Unidym's shareholders by focusing on the application of our intellectual property in medical therapeutics for the systemic treatment of disease, an area that is outside Unidym's core business focus on electronics applications for carbon nanotechnology."
One of Ensysce's first moves will be to fund the existing studies using carbon nanotubes for the delivery of short interfering RNA (siRNA) using animal models, led by Dr. Bruce Weisman at Rice University and Dr. Garth Powis at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Unidym said, and research at Stanford University being led by Dr. Hongjie Dai focused on the delivery of chemotherapy drugs such as taxol and doxorubicin using carbon nanotubes.
"We have made significant progress in delivering chemotherapy drugs into tumor cells and have reached the point where we hope to work with a commercial entity to take our work to the next level," Dai said. "Ensysce's participation in our work could help us progress to animal trials for a solution to substantially increase the efficacy of chemotherapy drugs, while reducing toxicity outside of tumor cells."
Ensysce is also looking at novel ways of using carbon nanotubes to directly treat tumor cells. As a part that research, the company will also fund a team led by Rice's Dr. Lon Wilson and Dr. Steven Curley of M. D. Anderson. This team is preparing to move a cancer therapy into human trials that uses carbon nanotubes exposed during treatment to radio-frequency radiation.
Unidym said initial operating costs of the new venture, including the funded research, are being provided by an unnamed investor.
Ensysce expects to put an experienced biotech management team in place after it generates initial animal data from its funded research, Unidym said.
For more information, visit: www.unidym.com
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