School name: MIT, Sloan School of Management
Team members: Elisabet de los Pinos, Jordi de los Pinos, Zeid Barakat
Concept: Patents on many drugs used to treat liver cancer (which kills 650,000 people each year) will expire within the next five years. Aura Biosciences aims to give pharmaceutical companies such as Sanofi-Aventis and Eli Lilly a chance to extend those patents by licensing the use of tiny "nanosmart" particles, only 20 nanometers wide, that deliver the drugs directly to tumor cells, reducing patient side effects while increasing efficacy and survival rates.
The company also plans to push for an "orphan drug" designation from the the U.S. Food & Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency that may reduce required trial times, increase government support for development and marketing, and grant short-term market exclusivity. The technology is highly experimental: Much of Aura's funding will cover trials necessary to gain regulatory approval and convince skeptical drug manufacturers. But Phase III licensing agreements are frequently highly lucrative, with the potential for extensive royalties as well as up-front payments in the tens or hundreds of millions.
Timeline: The team plans to start Phase I European trials in 2009 and Phase II trials in the U.S. in 2010, with the goal of licensing its technology to a major pharmaceutical manufacturer by 2012. - Rose Fox
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