News

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 Announces New Chief Scientific Officer

November 13, 2017

PolyAurum announced today that Dr. Thais Sielecki, PhD will join the company as Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer.  Dr. Sieleck comes to PolyAurum after a distinguished career working for companies such as Cytokine, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Dupont Merck.  She has a successful track record and expertise in the areas of preclinical and early clinical science while maintaining an innovative and creative approach toward leadership. She has extensive experience in managing projects in drug delivery, oncology, inflammation, anti-infectives, and women’s health with multiple IND submittals as well as managing the scientific/business development/legal/regulatory teams with leadership in decision making on product portfolio balance, therapeutic area focus, and overall research/development strategy.

 

Dr. Sielecki earned her BS in Organic Chemistry and Psychology  from the University of Maryland, her PhD in Organic Chemistry from  Colorado State University and did post-doctoral studies in organic chemistry at Stanford University.  “Thais is the perfect person to head up our early development efforts and to help us stay focussed on filing an IND to start clinical studies. We are thrilled to have her on board”, said Deb Travers, PolyAurum’s President and CEO.

 

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.

http://www.philly.com/philly/business/small_business/cancer-survivor-becomes-a-cancer-fighter-at-a-philly-start-up-20170728.html?mobi=true

 

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 http://www.philly.com/stellarstartups.)

 

“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.