KU startup company presents at world’s largest angel investor event

Published: 04/02/2014

A promising University of Kansas startup grabbed the spotlight last week on a national stage in front of a demanding and important audience — angel investors.

HylaPharm, which specializes in cancer drug delivery technology developed at KU, presented to angel investors at the 2014 Angel Capital Association Summit in Washington, DC.  It’s the world’s largest gathering of such investors, who are venture capitalists looking to inject seed money into new and emerging companies such as HylaPharm. 

The annual summit is primarily a professional development event for angel investors, but it also includes a four-hour “Innovation Showcase,” which allows promising companies to showcase their technology to investors in a speed-dating kind of format. Of course, the goal for the company is not to find romance, but rather to solicit feedback and assistance from angel investors, whose support can be crucial to an early-stage technology-based firm. 

The Innovation Showcase is an invitation-only opportunity extended to just a handful of companies nationwide.

“It’s an exclusive group,” said Dan Aires, M.D., Ph.D., HylaPharm president and CEO, “so we’re excited to have been invited. This was a tremendous opportunity to get the HylaPharm  story in front of an elite group of angel investors, which could really help a company like ours.”

Founded in 2010 by a team of KU faculty, HylaPharm is now producing its patented HylaPlat technology, which delivers chemotherapy drugs directly to cancer cells in tumors and nearby lymph nodes while limiting drug exposure in kidneys, nerves and auditory organs. By limiting exposure in these surrounding tissues, HylaPlat enables targeted treatments with fewer side effects for patients.

“For most drugs, there’s a trade-off between side effects and efficacy,” said Dr. Aires, who is also director of dermatology at KU Medical Center and member of the KU Cancer Center’s Cancer Biology Program,. “But for patients with certain kinds of cancer, our new technology has the potential to be both safer and stronger. That makes it especially exciting.”

HylaPharm is led by Dr. Aires and KU pharmaceutical chemist Laird Forrest, Ph.D., who serves as chief science officer and chief operating officer, and is a member of the KU Cancer Center’s Drug Discovery, Delivery and Experimental Therapeutics Program. The company is located in the Bioscience & Technology Business Center Expansion Facility in Lawrence, adjacent to the KU campus.

HylaPharm is one of 24 active KU startup companies, 22 of which are in Kansas.  This is the first time a KU company has been invited to the ACA showcase.

“Our goal is to transfer KU discoveries from the laboratory to the marketplace, and that includes encouraging faculty to start new companies,” said Julie Goonewardene, associate vice chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship and president of KU Innovation and Collaboration, the unit that coordinates KU’s commercialization and entrepreneurship efforts. “HylaPharm is an incredible example of the great work being done by KU researchers at both campuses. The fact that this company was chosen to present to this elite group of investors says volumes about their efforts and, more broadly, about the work being done at KU to promote economic development.”

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