Edwin L. Aguirre
When global pharmaceutical company Allergan recently acquired a startup named Anterios, it also acquired intellectual property developed at UMass Lowell. The deal will bring millions of dollars to the campus and UMass system for research and technology transfer.
Anterios is a privately held, clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company developing next-generation botulinum toxin-based prescription products for medical and cosmetic dermatology. With the purchase of Anterios, Allergan also acquired global rights to NDS™, a proprietary technology that enables local, targeted delivery of neurotoxin through the skin without the need for injection.
The technology was first patented in 2002 by a team of researchers led by Prof. Stephen McCarthy
and Prof. Emeritus Robert Nicolosi at UMass Lowell, where McCarthy is co-director of the Massachusetts Medical Device Development Center
, or M2D2, which has helped more than 100 entrepreneurs seeking to get their products to market. Nicolosi taught nutritional sciences and conducted research at the university for more than 20 years.
“The key to this delivery system is that a product—in this case the botulinum toxin—can be encapsulated in water-absorbent spheres that are small enough to enter the pores of the skin,” says McCarthy, a professor of plastics engineering who holds eight patents for inventions in areas including biodegradable plastics.
Botulinum toxin, produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, paralyzes the muscle and is used in a number of medical and cosmetic treatments. Botox®, manufactured by Allergan, is widely used to temporarily improve the appearance of moderate to severe facial wrinkles in adults. The neurotoxin is also used to treat chronic migraine as well as neurologic disorders such as tremors, strabismus (crossed eyes), blepharospasm (abnormal blinking or twitching of the eyelids) and various forms of dystonia (involuntary, repetitive muscle spasms or sustained contractions).
“In the future, additional products will be developed by the company to topically deliver active ingredients other than botulinum toxin,” notes McCarthy.
Commercializing New Technologies
The acquisition of Anterios by Allergan translates into a $3.8 million equity payout for UMass Lowell and the UMass system. It’s the largest intellectual property deal to date for UMass Lowell, according to Rajnish Kaushik
, assistant director of UMass Lowell’s Office of Technology Commercialization
OTC oversees protection and commercialization of intellectual property developed by faculty at UMass Lowell with the mission of facilitating the transfer of technology arising from that research to the private sector via licensing to startups and established companies.
“This successful exit of a startup based on UMass Lowell’s intellectual property speaks to the creativity of our faculty and the opportunity for their research to have an impact both on people’s lives and on economic development,” says Kaushik. “Startups play a significant role in bringing technologies born in academic laboratories into the marketplace. The entrepreneurial spirit at UMass Lowell and across the UMass system helps fuel this success.”
Collaborating in the research were biology Prof. Tom Shea
, clinical laboratory and nutritional sciences Assoc. Prof. Tom Wilson
and chemical engineering Assoc. Prof. Carl Lawton
. Balint Koroskenyi contributed to the group’s work as a UMass Lowell post-doctoral researcher, and Jean-Bosco Tagne, Fongshu Kuo and Srikanth Kakumanu participated while they were doctoral students at the university.
The revenue generated for UMass Lowell from this license will be invested to advance the commercialization of other technologies and other research being conducted at the university, according to OTC.
McCarthy adds that the drawn-out process to get technology from the lab to the market is what inspired him to establish M2D2 in 2010.
“Because of the long licensing process of Anterios, I realized that there were a lot of patents filed in Massachusetts that resulted in products that never made it to market,” he says. “Large companies would not license these patents because they were deemed too risky. We call this the ‘Valley of Death.’ I founded M2D2 to help small companies with medical device patents get through the valley by using UMass Lowell and UMass Worcester to provide product, business and medical development such that they are then able to raise money and eventually get to market.”