PolyAurum Featured in Philadelphia Inquirer Article

July 28, 2017

PolyAurum is being featured in a July 30 article in the business section of the Philadelphia Inquirer.  The article speaks to CEO, Deb Travers motivation and plans for the company and to the incredible biodegradable gold nanoparticle technology which has the potential to significantly enhance radiation therapy for cancer patients.  The author of the article – Diane Mastrull – saw Travers present at the Angel Venture Fair at the Union League in Philadelphia and liked the story of the company and its founders and leader.   Mastrull frequently features local entrepreneurs in her articles.


Cancer survivor becomes a cancer fighter at a Philly start-up

What Debra Travers really wanted to be was a marine biologist, until “I found out Jacques Cousteau wasn’t hiring.”

How she wound up as chief executive of PolyAurum LLC, a Philadelphia start-up developing biodegradable gold nanoparticles for treating cancerous tumors, involved a professional journey of more than 30 years in pharmaceutical and diagnostics industries, and a personal battle with the disease she’s now in business to defeat.

After determining that studying sea creatures was not a viable career choice, Travers — a military kid from all over — switched her major at Cedar Crest College in Allentown to medical technology. She graduated in 1979, then worked for three years in a hospital laboratory until she concluded she didn’t like shift work and “could do more.”

What followed was an impressive career progression: Travers started as a chemistry technician at DuPont Biomedical Products Division, advancing to executive positions in marketing and product development at Centocor, GlaxoSmithKline, Endo Pharmaceuticals, and IMS Health.

Much of that work involved bringing new products through the long development and regulation-heavy process from concept to launch, with experience in therapeutic areas including oncology, urology, pain medicine, cardiology, and rheumatology. In an industry of specialty silos, Travers developed a uniquely blended expertise in marketing and R&D.

It was on March 23, 2006, that her health-care vocation turned personal: Travers, then a 50-year-old mother of two, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

An oncologist recommended a double mastectomy, removal of both ovaries, and chemotherapy. The tearful pleadings of her daughter, Kelly, then 18 — “I need you here when I graduate college, when I get married, when I have kids” — persuaded Travers to follow that recommendation.

She returned to work at Endo for seven more years, as a director in project management, before being laid off in June 2013, one month before her daughter’s wedding. The break gave Travers time to concentrate on the big event and to start “to think what I’d like to do when I grow up.”

That process would lead her in late 2015 to PolyAurum, a start-up spun out of the University of Pennsylvania.

“I became a CEO and a grandmother in the same year,” said Travers, now 61, chuckling during a recent interview at the Pennovation Center incubator in West Philadelphia. From there, her home in Delaware, and the sites of pitch opportunities with investors, she is working to raise $1.3 million in seed funding by early in the fourth quarter, to help get PolyAurum closer to clinical trials on humans.

So far, research and testing — funded through $4 million in grants to the university — has been limited to mice with tumors. It has shown that gold nanocrystals less than five millimeters in diameter greatly enhance the effectiveness of radiation on tumors without increasing harm to healthy surrounding tissue, said Jay Dorsey, an associate professor and radiation oncologist at Penn and one of four university faculty who developed the technology.

The effectiveness of metals in improving a tumor’s ability to absorb radiation has long been known, Dorsey said. But one of the stumbling blocks to incorporating gold nanoparticles in such therapeutics is that the metal is not eliminated from the body well, posing serious problems to vital organs such as the liver and spleen.

Penn’s David Cormode, a professor of radiology, and Andrew Tsourkas, a professor of bioengineering, have worked to make gold more biocompatible, resulting in PolyAurum’s current technology, Dorsey said. The gold nanocrystals are contained in a biodegradable polymer that allows enough metal to collect in a tumor. The polymer then breaks down, releasing the gold for excretion from the body so that it does not build up in key organs.

The company’s name is a combination of those two essential ingredients: Poly, derived from polymer, and Aurum, the Latin word for gold.

Explaining all that, and the potential that PolyAurum’s founders see for extending and saving lives, is the message Travers now is in charge of disseminating — the part of the critical path to commercialization that is not the strength of most researchers toiling in laboratories.

“She knows what the founders don’t know — it just makes a perfect match,” said Michael Dishowitz, portfolio manager at PCI Ventures, an arm of Penn that helps university start-ups find investors, recruit management, and get to market.

Since its formation about eight years ago, PCI has helped more than 150 companies secure more than $100 million in funding, said Dishowitz, who has a doctorate in bioengineering from Penn and spent several years studying the impact of cell-signaling pathways on orthopedic injury.

While calling PolyAurum’s technology “cool and very transformative for treatment,” Dishowitz also delivered a dose of reality about the rigors ahead, as health-care start-ups must navigate a course with no guarantees their products will lead to actual clinical implementation.

PolyAurum is one of 13 companies that entered Philadelphia Media Network’s second annual Stellar StartUps competition in the health-care/life sciences category. A total of nine categories drew 88 applicants. The winners will be announced Sept. 12 at an event at the Franklin Institute’s Fels Planetarium. (Details at


“A lot has to go right, all the planets and stars have to align for this to hit the market,” Dishowitz said of PolyAurum’s commercial prospects.

Which is why the team behind any start-up is so essential to investors, he said, calling Travers’ interest in joining a company that has yet been unable to pay her (she has equity in PolyAurum) “incredibly lucky.”

The only thing Travers’ corporate-heavy background lacked, he said, was raising money for a start-up. It doesn’t worry him, Dishowitz said, citing Travers’ “perseverance, no-quit attitude.”

“When you’re out there raising money, you’re going to hear ‘no’ about 100, 150 times before you hear ‘yes,’ ” Dishowitz said.

When it comes to pitching for PolyAurum, Travers has extra incentive.

“I am working on a cancer therapeutic, which is very important to the 11-year cancer survivor in me,” she said.

As for handling “nos,” she’s had plenty of professional experience with that.

“After spending 30-plus years in the drug and diagnostic industries, where it is hard to find women CEOs or board members,” Travers said, “I’ve learned to ignore the negative voices.”

PolyAurum Awarded Small Business Technology Transfer Grant from NIH

July 27, 2017

The NIH’s National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering has awarded PolyAurum a $225,000 grant to support development of its biodegradable gold nanoparticles.  This is added to a $200,000 grant received from the University City Science Center – a Philadelphia based startup accelerator in December of last year.  These awards validate the science and serve as a springboard for our development program and attracting matching funding from early stage venture capital and angel groups.

PolyAurum Participates in Keiretsu Forum – Mid-Atlantic Roadshow

June 23, 2017

PolyAurum is looking for $2.7M in seed funding to support development and testing of its biodegradable gold nanoparticle technology which significantly enhances the effectiveness of radiation therapy in locally advanced tumors.  “This will enable us to complete all of the animal studies needed for approval from FDA to move into human clinical trials”, said Debra Travers, PolyAurum’s CEO.  Seed money typically comes from a number of sources including friends and family, grants and angel investors.  A typical angel investor is usually in for $10,000-50,000, so it takes a lot of them to fill a round as large as ours. Angel groups are able to combine the resources of several members to make a bigger investment which gives them a bigger piece of the company.  Keiretsu Forum is one of the largest angel groups with chapters worldwide in more than 50 cities.  The Keiretsu Forum Mid-Atlantic group which is composed of four cities – New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC and Pittsburgh – selected PolyAurum from a group of 9 companies in April to present to their membership to seek funding.  During the roadshow, companies present to 20-45 angel investors in each of the four cities.  During the June roadshow, PolyAurum gained considerable interest from members in investing in the company and Travers is working with members to field a due diligence team to move the angel group closer to an investment.  The Keiretsu Forum Mid-Atlantic group funded 37 of the 42 companies who presented to the group in 2016 and invested more than $3.0M in 16 life science companies.

PolyAurum Selected as one of 34 Presenting Companies for Angel Venture Fair

The 19th annual Angel Venture Fair takes place at the Union League on Friday, May 5th.  The AVF features 34 companies from a cross section of industries.  There are 24 non-university and 10 student companies.  The companies that have recently participated in AVF have raised almost $4.5 million. History has shown that in past Angel Venture Fairs going back to 2004, upwards of 78 percent of companies that have gone through the AVF process received funding as a result of their participation. Since 2004, we have been able to track and account that a total or more than $16 million has been raised for AVF companies. We think that is much higher since many of the companies and or investors have no obligation to supply us with their data.


  • AnaOno, LLC (Phila, Pa)-Provides apparel for women who have had a mastectomy.
  • AerO2Max (Phila, Pa)-A revolutionary smart training system for performance athletes.  Real-time respiratory analytics empower you to train to the targets that matter.
  • D3UC (Newark, NJ)- Offers a White Label, Cloud-based Phone & UC service exclusively for technology VARs and MSPs serving SMBs with profit margins of 50% to 100%.
  • Fischer Block, Inc. (West Chester, Pa)- Improving energy reliability with loT connected devices and big data analytics.
  • FLAG Therapeutics, Inc. (Raleigh, NC)- An oncology company developing dual-acting small molecules company with dual-acting small molecules that seek out tumors (and not normal cells) and cause tumor cell death.
  • Imago Systems, Inc. (Summit, NJ)- Software that assists medical professionals to better interpret grey-scale images by visualizing and characterizing X-rays, ultrasounds, MRI’s, CTs & Pet scans.
  • Indigo Biosciences, Inc., (State College, Pa)- Has the world’s largest portfolio of nuclear receptor assay kits and screening services.
  • iSport360, Inc., (Manalapan Township, NJ)- A mobile platform that helps youth sport coaches, players and parents share objective player feedback throughout the sports season.
  • Jefferson’s List (Phila, Pa)- A platform to connect people who want to run for office political consultants and operatives.
  • Noleuderm, (Phila, Pa)- A patented compound found in black pepper, delivered topically in combination with UV Phototherapy, to increase the treatment prognosis for those affected by
  • OrthoForge (Phila, Pa)- A technology that combines real time healing data and patient compliance monitoring with bone growth stimulation.
  • OrthogenRx (Doylestown, Pa)-OrthogenRx is a late stage development/marketing company developing orthopedic Class III devices at lower cost, efficient operations and competitive pricing.
  • PittMoss (Ambridge, Pa)- a recycled/upcycled engineered fiber that replaces peat moss and grows pants better than  existing growing media while having  many alternative uses.
  • PledgeCents (Phila, Pa)- Social impact marketplace that allows EdTech ventures to turn their free users into paying customers by leveraging our crowdfunding solution.
  • Polyaurum, LLC, (Phila, Pa)- A pre-clinical stage biotechnology company focused on developing and commercializing biodegradable gold nanoparticles (BGNP) for diagnostic and therapeutic indications including cancer.
  • QuantaCool Corp (Glen Mills, Pa)- No pumps or water environmentally friendly passive two-phase cooling systems for data center and high performance computers.
  • Red Queen Gaming, LLC (Phila, Pa)- Red Queen enables gamers to build the next generation of gameplay tools.
  • Reflik, (Franklin Township, NJ)- Finds top candidates in half the time and for half the cost, through its extensive network of recruiters and industry professionals.
  • RistCall, LLC (Phila, Pa)- Helps hospitals & nursing homes in providing better patient nurse communication using smart watches.
  • Untethered Labs, Inc. (College Park, MD)- Develop wearable tech for authentication and security in companies.
  • Verif-y (Phila, Pa)- A platform that removes the long, expensive, mistake and fraud prone process of traditional background check, allowing employers to immediately know the
  • Waterless Works (Phila, Pa)- A waterless Works is a mobile waterless car washing company.
  • Wounds A.I. (Phila, Pa)- Builds decisions support tools for wound care clinicians powered by computer vision and machine learning.
  • XeroThera (Bryn Mawr, Pa)- Focused on orthopedic and resistant infections.  It is not a drug, but a biomaterial.
  • EdinLabs (Phila, Pa)Making piloting in K-12 easy by connecting EdTech companies directly to a large, active user base of teaches.
  • E-Health Now (Wilmington, DE)- An integrated platform that provides highly quality personalized on-demand primary care service.
  • GamePlan (Phila, Pa)- A mobile app, helps make stress-free decisions on where to eat and drink with a focus on collaborative group decisions.
  • Group K (Phila, Pa)- Create diagnostics to provide vital healthcare to low resource settings and developing countries, while decreasing cost and wait time of current diagnostics.
  • Kinetic Buildings (Phila, Pa)- Simplifies the process of saving energy and reducing operational costs in commercial buildings.
  • NeuroFlow (Phila, Pa)- An FDA cleared software that analyzes biometric data, providing clinicians with an objective tool to improve diagnosis and monitor treatment.
  • Orai (Phila, Pa)- An early-stage B2C SaaS startup that uses artificial intelligence to help you speak more confidently, clearly and effectively.
  • Philly Frites (Ithaca, NY)- First stand-alone, franchisable, premium retail fry establishment
  • Pinpointer (Phila, Pa)- Connects 4 billion people worldwide living without a home address to the global e-commerce market.
  • Vibrating Therapeutic Apparel (Newark, DE)- Offers wearable therapeutic products that use vibration technology to help alleviate pain.

PolyAurum  Selected as a Featured Company at IMPACT 2016 Capital Conference

Philadelphia, PA, October 28, 2016 – PolyAurum  today announced it will present at the IMPACT 2016 Capital Conference on November 30.  Hosted by Grant Thornton and Presented by the Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technologies (PACT), the IMPACT Capital Conference unites the private equity, venture capital, and entrepreneurial communities in the Mid-Atlantic region.  For over 20 years, IMPACT has stimulated billions of dollars in venture funding and entrepreneurial success.

We are thrilled to have been selected from 165 applicants as one of the featured companies presenting at  this very important investor conference, said Debra Travers, President and CEO of PolyAurum.  The exposure that start-ups like PolyAurum get to investors and the coaching provided is invaluable.  The likelihood of having your technology’s value proposition resonate with an investor is greatly increased when you get this many investors at one conference.

PolyAurum is a preclinical stage biotech startup spun out of the University of Pennsylvania  to develop biodegradable gold nanoparticles for treating cancer.  Of the 1.7 million Americans diagnosed with cancer every year, half of them get radiation therapy.  But for certain locally advanced tumors there is a high rate of therapy failures which leads to disease progression and death for those patients. For example, the average survival for a patient with glioblastoma – a deadly form of brain cancer – is a little over a year post treatment.  That’s because you can’t push the dose of radiation high enough to kill the tumor without significant damage to the healthy parts of the brain.  Our biodegradable gold nanoparticles localize selectively in the tumor and amplify the effect of radiation therapy only in the tumor, allowing a radiation oncologist to more effectively destroy the cancer cells without increasing damage to healthy tissue.  “In animal models of cancer, we’ve seen  doubling of survival, and in some cases disappearance of the tumor when our gold nanoparticles are given with radiation therapy versus those given radiation therapy alone.  Now we need to show that these results can be duplicated in human patients,” said Travers.

45 Entrepreneurial Companies total will pitch their innovations live in front of investors, professional advisors and key decision makers on November 30. During the pitching hours, the featured companies will receive direct feedback (aka: Direct IMPACT) with hopes to take home funding, gain experience and make lasting business connections. Additionally, each company will vie to enter the IMPACT Lion’s Den for a chance to receive funding in real time from a panel of accomplished investors. For more information on IMPACT 2016 Capital Conference, please visit

 History of IMPACT
The IMPACT Capital Conference has a long tradition of uniting key players from the private equity, venture capital, and entrepreneurial communities. This day-and-a-half event offers both sponsors and attendees access to emerging companies from the Mid-Atlantic region. As the oldest and most established venture conference in the Northeast, IMPACT draws more than 1,000 participants. It stands as the catalyst for billions of dollars in venture funding and entrepreneurial success in the region.

 About Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technologies (PACT)
Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technologies (PACT)’s vision is to be the go-to resource for fast growing companies, and a driver of entrepreneurship and innovation in the Philadelphia region. PACT provides its members with valuable content and connections to capital, coaching, and customers that will accelerate their growth and success, and to collaborate with other organizations to drive innovation and entrepreneurship in the region. Visit for more information.

For more information about PolyAurum, contact Debra Travers at or visit our website at:


September 16, 2016 PolyAurum Participates in Mid-Atlantic Diamond Ventures Fall Forum

PolyAurum was one of 12 companies selected to participate in the fall session of Mid-Atlantic Diamond Ventures Forum.  Companies apply, go through a rigorous screening process and, if selected, get valuable coaching and an opportunity for a 15 minute pitch in a room full of investors.  “The experience was invaluable,” said Debra Travers, President and CEO of PolyAurum.  “The feedback we got from the coaches and screening committee was great and really helped us hone our presentation and feel prepared for investor questions.”

Each company was allowed to set up a display at the Forum where they could engage one-on-one with investors and answer questions that could not be answered during the brief Q&A after each presentation. “The Forum really allowed us to present the company and it’s technology – biodegradable gold nanoparticles for treating cancer – to a broad group of investors and those initial conversations are leading to follow-up with a number of them,” said Travers.

PolyAurum Wins Mid Atlantic Bio Angels 1st Pitch Life Science Philadelphia Competition Developer of Biodegradable Gold Nanoparticles for Cancer Treatment Named as “Best in Show”

September 28, 2016 08:30 ET | Source: Mid Atlantic Bio Angels

PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 28, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Mid Atlantic Bio Angels (MABA) announces today that PolyAurum ( was chosen as “Best in Show” at MABA’s Philadelphia 1st Pitch Life Science event, which took place at the Cira Center on September 15, 2016.  PolyAurum is a preclinical stage biotechnology company focused on the development and commercialization of biodegradable gold nanoparticles (BGNPs) for the treatment of cancer.

PolyAurum was spun out of the University of Pennsylvania as an UPstart company through the Penn Center for Innovation.  The technology is a result of a collaboration between the university’s Schools of Medicine and Engineering. PolyAurum’s BGNPs accumulate selectively in the tumor and not in the healthy tissue surrounding the tumor. When radiation therapy is applied, the gold amplifies the effect, giving a better kill of tumor cells without increasing damage to healthy tissue.  The company has already seen impressive results in an animal model of glioblastoma – a very difficult-to-treat brain cancer with average survival of about one year post diagnosis.  Weekly injections of the company’s BGNPs given with radiation therapy has the potential to increase cancer-free survival, shorten duration of therapy and improve patient quality of life for cancer patients.

“The recognition we have received from Mid Atlantic Bio Angels validates our business approach as well as confirming the potential value of the data we have generated to date,” said Debra S. Travers, president and CEO of PolyAurum, Inc.  “Until we can prevent cancer, we have to do everything we can to cure it.  This technology adds another weapon in the fight against this horrible disease that affects one in three people in the United States, and we are pleased to have had the opportunity to demonstrate our dedication and technology in the 1st Pitch Life Sciences event.”

Bernard Rudnick, co-founder of MABA and principal at CapGenic Advisors LLC: “We found the company and its management to be more seasoned than typical start-ups and we generally felt that PolyAurum was poised on the cusp of being investment-ready.”

“The company had an experienced manager give a thoroughly professional pitch which clearly showed the nature of the medical issue, the relative simplicity of the proposed solution and the likelihood of uptake by the market,” added Stephen Goodman, co-founder of MABA and a partner at Pryor Cashman LLP.  “They hit all the marks that an early-stage pitch should try for.”

About 1st Pitch Life Science Events

At a 1st Pitch event (, early stage life sciences and healthcare companies make a 15-minute presentation to a panel of experienced life science investors and consultants, followed by a 15-minute audience Q&A. However, where actual investors would then ask the presenting company to leave the room during their subsequent discussion, presenting companies at 1st Pitch are invited to hear the panel constructively critique the company’s presentation, business model and perceived viability in the market.

About MABA

Mid Atlantic Bio Angels ( is a group of active angel investors, which meets in New York City monthly (except July and August) solely to hear from pre-screened early-stage life science companies. MABA members consist of individuals from Delaware to Massachusetts with significant expertise and experience in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical and healthcare industries, including former and current corporate executives, doctors and Ph.D. scientists with product development backgrounds, successful medical entrepreneurs and analyst/investors focused on life sciences. MABA’s goal is to create an environment where the depth of investors’ knowledge coupled with the pre-screening of presenting companies enhances the potential for meaningful investment.


Jules Abraham

JQA Partners, Inc.