UMass Lowell startup tests drug delivery to the brain

11/06/2006
By From the Lowell Sun

LOWELL -- A small company operating out of UMass Lowell space in the Wannalancit Mill has successfully tested on animals a device that delivers drugs directly to the brain.

Al Kyle, president and CEO of Perfusion Technology, said the technology could open the door to treating major neurological disorders such as brain tumors, epilepsy and Alzheimer's disease. It is currently extremely difficult to treat disorders of the brain with drugs because of something called the "blood-brain barrier," Kyle said.

"It's an area of neuroscience that's very frustrating," he said.

Perfusion has developed a product that looks like a pair of oversized headphones. They are attached to the temples instead of the ears. Inside the headphones are transducers that emit ultrasound vibrations targeted at specific places in the brain. This breaks down the blood-brain barrier long enough for drugs to be administered intravenously and reach the brain.

Kyle and his co-founder and business partner, Ulrich Herken, have tested the device on rodents and just completed tests on "large animals" conducted in Ohio and the Virgin Islands. Perfusion, founded in early 2003, earlier this year became the first tenant for UML's Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center.

Kyle said Perfusion is now trying to raise funds to conduct feasibility tests on humans. It's difficult to find investors now because the company's technology is still in its early stages.

"We have everything worked out," Kyle said. "But we need money."