PolyAurum is New JLABS Resident Company

November 1, 2018

PolyAurum is pleased to announce its acceptance as a resident company of the Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS (JLABS) JPOD @ Philadelphia, in the Pennovation Center, the University of Pennsylvania incubator located in Philadelphia, PA.  PolyAurum has been at Pennovation Center since January of 2018.  The JPOD @ Philadelphia provides the benefits of JLABS, including access to expertise and mentorship, a state-of-the-art communications facility, educational programs and exposure to potential investors.

“I am thrilled to be in the first cohort of companies accepted into the JPOD @ Philadelphia,” said Deb Travers, PolyAurum’s CEO. “Having spent most of my career in the pharmaceutical industry, I am very aware of Johnson & Johnson’s reputation of innovation and broad expertise.  It will be very helpful for us to have that expertise available to PolyAurum as we move towards filing an Investigational New Drug JLABS is a global network of open innovation ecosystems, enabling and empowering innovators to create and accelerate delivery of life-enhancing health and wellness solutions to patients around the world.  As a leader in innovation, JLABS aims to help entrepreneurs in pharmaceutical, medical device, consumer, and health tech bring healthcare solutions to patients and consumers.

About PolyAurum

PolyAurum is developing biodegradable gold nanoparticles for use in diagnosing and treating patients with solid tumors.  The gold nanoparticles selectively accumulate in a tumor and aim to significantly amplify the effect of radiation therapy in the tumor, while sparing the adjacent healthy tissues the side effects associated with a higher dose of radiation.  These side effects can be life-altering or life-threatening and often result in therapy being scaled back or discontinued.  This can result in disease progression and death. PolyAurum’s proprietary technology has the potential of improving survival and quality of life for these patients. For more information:



PolyAurum CEO is Panelist for Davids vs. Goliaths Session at Med City Converge


Which startups will be showing what they’re doing for cancer care, precision medicine at CONVERGE?

Healthcare startups have always been at the center of MedCity News’s content and our events are no exception. As the MedCity CONVERGE conference in Philadelphia July 11-12 approaches, here’s a look at the innovation that’s taking root in the cancer care and precision medicine sectors that will be presented by health IT and life science entrepreneurs. is a social network of cancer patients and caregivers. A couple of years ago, the group developed an app referred to as a mobile treatment navigator. The app offers advice on treatment options, relieving side effects, and finding emotional support. Through the network, patients can connect with medical professionals and other patients to get more information on clinical trial eligibility, post-chemotherapy remedies, and other medical advice. Last year Belong inked a partnership with the American Cancer Society. ACS will lead a forum on Belong as American Cancer Society4U. The Belong community will be able to access relevant info and contact the American Cancer Society through the app. Eliran Malki is the CEO and Founder.

OncoPower, a subsidiary of Witty Health, is designed to help cancer patients track their medical data from different providers. Karthik Koduru is the Co-Founder and Chief Oncologist of OncoPower. The physician-designed platform built on block-chain technology uses cryptocurrency to reward patients for medication adherence and offers real-time reporting of side effects.

PolyAurum is a biotech company that seeks to develop and commercialize biodegradable gold nanoparticles for diagnostic and therapeutic indications including cancer, according to the company’s website. CEO Debra Travers sees biodegradable gold nanoparticle technology as having the potential to significantly enhance radiation therapy for cancer patients.

Seeker Health, founded by Sandra Shpilberg, is intended to use technology to connect patients to clinical trials and help the biopharmaceutical industry accelerate drug development and innovation.

CNS Pharmaceuticals wants to expand therapeutic options for people with glioblastoma. Founder and MD Anderson medicinal chemist Waldemar Priebe wanted to take a powerful class of chemotherapy drugs called anthracyclines and disguise them by making changes to some of the ionic properties to get past the blood-brain barrier. The treatment is in Phase 2 development, according to a recent article. John Climaco is the CEO.

Cubismi Founded by Dr. Moira Schieke, a clinical radiologist, the company developed software that organizes dispersed medical images and other clinical data into a singular framework for precision analytics of a patient’s body.

CytoSavvy is a digital pathology informatics business that developed shape-based modeling segmentation algorithms that do shape and color analysis capabilities to increase reliability, save time, and improve decisions. John Freyhof is the co-founder and CEO.

PotentiaMetrics The predictive analytics business developed products that include MyCancerJourney Outcomes which is intended to provide a personalized range of cancer treatment options and outcomes for patients from hospitals across the country. The product is also designed to improve the way patients work with providers to support more informed treatment decisions. Another is patient navigation tool My Patient Reported Outcomes and Shared Experience or My PROSE. Robert Palmer is the CEO.

3Derm produced an imaging system primary care physicians use to capture and deliver different views of a patient’s rash or other skin irregularity. They store and forward these images to board-certified dermatologists within a health system’s network. Liz Asai is the co-founder and CEO.

Care+Wear produces clothing items that are designed for people with ports and peripherally inserted central catheters or PICC lines and other patients. The company, which won the MedCity ENGAGE Pitch Perfect context last year, recently collaborated with Oscar de la Renta on a hoodie for patients receiving treatment via a central line or port-a-cath. Chaitenya Razdan is the Co-Founder and CEO.



PolyAurum Leases Lab Space at Pennovation Center

January 2, 2018

PolyAurum has leased lab and office space in the Pennovation Center, a 58,000 square foot business incubator and laboratory located in the Grays Ferry Section of Philadelphia, that aligns and integrates researchers, innovators, and entrepreneurs for the commercialization of research discoveries.  According to Deb Travers, CEO of PolyAurum, the choice was easy.  The Pennovation Center is just south of the University of Pennsylvania campus where some of the development work will continue.  The two campuses are a short walk or shuttle ride from each other.  The Center has a modern industrial vibe that appeals to startups.  There is ample conferencing and collaboration space which is important as you meet with investors.  And don’t underestimate the beauty of free parking which none of the other incubators within the city limits provides.  Finally, the Penn Center for Innovation Ventures group is right on campus.  Said Travers, “We still get a lot of support from PCI Ventures as a young startup.  Now I can just walk down the hall to ask questions.”

PolyAurum Adds Dr. Neha Saxena, PhD as Director of Product Development

January 15, 2018

PolyAurum is pleased to announce that it has hired Dr. Neha Saxena, PhD as its new Director of Product Development.  Neha comes to PolyAurum from Amend Surgical, where she worked on novel bone fillers.  “She has the experience in nanoparticle development and characterization that we need at this critical juncture as we move full time development out of the laboratory of Dr. David Cormode, Assistant Professor in Radiology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania into our own laboratory at the Pennovation Center in the Grays Ferry area of Philadelphia”, said Deb Travers, PolyAurum’s CEO.

Neha has a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering,from the University of Texas at Austin.  Shew earned her MS and PHD in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Florida, Gainesville.

PolyAurum Licenses Nanoparticle Technology from the University of Pennsylvania and the Penn State Research Foundation

October 20, 2017

PolyAurum announced today that it has successfully secured an exclusive worldwide  license to the intellectual property described in PCT/US2015/021198 – “Polyphosphazene delivery systems for metal nanocrystals for biomedical applications” from the University of Pennsylvania and the Penn State Research Foundation.  This comprehensive patent application covers composition of matter for a wide range of nanocrystals and polymers, as well as all foreseen medical (human and veterinary) uses for the nanoparticles.  The patent is under active review by the US Patent Office.

PolyAurum is a preclinical stage biotechnology startup spun out of the University of Pennsylvania.  The company is developing biodegradable gold nanoparticles to amplify the effect of radiation therapy in patients with locally advanced non-resectable tumors.  Used in conjunction with radiation therapy, the gold nanoparticles accumulate selectively in tumors and significantly increase the destruction of tumor cells compared to radiation therapy alone.  Because the nanoparticles are too large to enter normal tissue, there is no increase in damage to healthy tissues adjacent to the tumor.

PolyAurum Presents at Keiretsu NW Capital Expo

August 2, 2017

PolyAurum presented its biodegradable nanoparticle technology to a packed room of investors at the Keiretsu Forum Northwest Capital Expo in Seattle, Washington on August 2, 2017.  The audience was comprised of investors from various Keiretsu chapters along the West Coast, independent investors and representatives from numerous Family Offices in the country.  The company was introduced by Bernard Rudnick of Capgenic Advisors and an active Keiretsu member and the investment committee for the Keiretsu Capital Fund.

Deb Travers, President and CEO of PolyAurum, said “Getting all these active investors into a room to hear your story is incredible. We had so much interest in the technology, people were lined up to talk to me.”  The company will now go through a due diligence process with the Keiretsu organization, with investments following successful completion.

Keiretsu is the largest angel group in the world with more than 50 chapters worldwide.  In 2016, they made $almost 72M in investments, 22% of which were in the life sciences.

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.