Liquidia Technologies, a drug delivery start-up launched from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, has received a $10 million equity investment from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to further the firm’s vaccine development program. The Liquidia investment is the foundation’s first in a health-care-related biotech firm.
Joseph DeSimone, a chemistry professor at UNC and founder of Liquidia, says he met with Bill Gates last year at a private investors’ conference where DeSimone outlined the firm’s lithography-based technology for regulating drug and vaccine particle size and shape. Liquidia’s particle replication in nonwetting templates (PRINT) technology uses silicon wafers and a fluoropolymer mold to form particles, a technique similar to lithography used in manufacturing computer chips.
The PRINT technology, though focused on particle formation, enables a range of chemical syntheses in the development of vaccines and drugs. The company’s lead product is LIQ001, a seasonal flu vaccine for elderly patients. It is currently in Phase I clinical trials.
The Gates Foundation made the investment under its two-year-old program-related investments initiative. Under the $400 million initiative, the foundation evaluates a range of opportunities, including equity investments in funds and purchases of shares in companies.
The Gates Foundation will take an undisclosed stake in Liquidia as well as a nonvoting, advisory seat on the company’s board. The firm has raised about $60 million, including the Gates investment.