Needle-free Drug Delivery Company raises US$25m

29 October 2015
A photo of five people posing, with the man in the middle holding a plaque.
The ABI jet injection research team receives a 2014 Innovators Award. Left to right: Dr Bryan Ruddy, Helen (Xinxin) Li, Associate Professor Andrew Taberner, James Mckeage, Rhys Williams. Not present: Professor Poul Nielsen. Photographer: Robin Hodgkinson.

Auckland Bioengineering Institute-affiliated medical device company Portal Instruments LLC recently secured a US$25 million Series B financing round to commercialise its needle-free drug delivery system.

This investment is led by 5AM Ventures and joined by Portal’s existing private and strategic investors, including Sanofi Sunrise. This is a major step forward for the Boston-based company, which is translating research outcomes of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Auckland Bioengineering Institute (ABI) jet injection research group into drug delivery solutions for use on human patients. Proceeds from the Series B financing will be used to further develop Portal’s groundbreaking computerised needle-free drug delivery system for injectable biologics for chronic diseases and to advance commercialisation of its first product.

The underlying technology is supported by a unique intellectual property portfolio of more than 50 patents conceived and prototyped at MIT by world renowned New Zealand inventor, scientist and entrepreneur Professor Ian Hunter, together with company co-founders Associate Professor Andrew Taberner (now at ABI), Dr Cathy Hogan (MIT), and colleagues. Included in Portal Instruments' extensive portfolio is a license to use intellectual property arising from previous ABI jet injection research, led by Associate Professor Andrew Taberner.

“Portal Instruments is transforming the patient experience for the delivery of injectable biologics for chronic diseases”, said Patrick Anquetil, CEO. “Administering high viscosity, high concentration biologics is a challenge for the biopharma industry as the drugs have to be needle-injected subcutaneously, which is a slow and painful experience for patients. Drug adherence is a huge problem in chronic diseases and needle-related safety concerns are real. The Portal device offers a transformed patient experience. The injection is needle-free, fast, with shorter injection duration and sensation for the patient. The device is easy to use and digital health features empower the patient to holistically manage their chronic condition and improve their adherence. We are excited to have a respected life sciences venture capital firm such as 5AM Ventures join us on our mission.”

Jim W. Young, PhD, Venture Partner at 5AM Venture Management said, “Portal’s breakthrough drug delivery system has the potential to address the administration of high concentration, viscous biologics in a safe, accurate manner that can significantly improve the patient experience”. Young continued, “Portal has an extensive intellectual property portfolio, a first-class team of scientists and engineers, and a management team with a strong track record in the biotech industry. We are excited to be part of the Company.” 

The ABI jet injection research team continues to develop techniques for jet delivery of viscous drugs, methods for enabling high volume jet injection, powerful new actuators and controllers for jet injection systems, and techniques for real-time tracking of injection depth. The team is applying its technologies in projects funded by the Health Research Council, National Science Challenges (run by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment), and Medical Technologies Centre of Research Excellence.

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