May 25, 2022

A start-up that originated in a laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley has enlisted investors to work on a patented needle-free injector that they hope will make the need for traditional daily self-administration less painful.

NovaXS Biotech, founded in 2020 by 21-year-old Berkeley researcher Alina Su, recently raised $1.5 million led by Lei Ming, an angel investor best known for co-founding Chinese search giant Baidu in 1999. The seed round is closed. Other investors included Chinese venture capital. Taihill Venture and NewGen VC, and US: Courtyard Ventures, UC Berkeley’s start-up fund, mHub Impact Fund, Chicago Innovation Center, medical device maker Baxter, and Edward Elmhurst Health, Illinois Integrated Healthcare.

The NovaXS injection gun, which patients can hold firmly in their hand, can inject biologics into the subcutaneous and intramuscular levels of the body within 0.3 seconds under fluid pressure. The device also comes with a cloud platform that collects patient information such as injection time, frequency, dose amount, and drug temperature for physicians.

The startup has already found two initial use cases: in vitro fertilization and drug delivery to treat Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Su is especially passionate about the latter’s treatment. DMD, an inherited disease caused by defects in a gene encoding a protein important for muscle function, can put patients in a wheelchair as early as 12 years of age. There is an FDA-approved solution that uses adeno-associated virus (AAV) to deliver modified genetic material to diseased cells, but the treatment has the potential to cause adverse side effects.

Recent advances in gene-editing technology have given new hope to a once incurable disease, although much more needs to be done to truly turn lab work into commercially viable solutions. That’s what NovaXS is aiming for: Su brings bioengineering professor Irina Konboy’s CRISPR gene-editing therapy to DMD patients with a startup’s needleless injector.

“Many large pharmaceutical companies do not have incentives to fund IVF or research and development for orphan diseases due to the limited number of patients in these specific markets. On the other hand, small companies do not have the resources to deal with such complex tasks,” Su said.

NovaXS is targeting gene therapy and early stage IVF because Su believes they have “the biggest potential to gain significant market share.” He also plans to work on other diseases that require home injections, such as diabetes and growth hormone disorders in children.

With the help of Seed Capital Infusion, NovaX plans to work on the safety and sustainability of its products, seek FDA approval, and build its core management team.

Originally from China, Su’s second goal is to introduce DMD gene therapy to his country. The startup will still be headquartered in the US, but will conduct clinical trials for DMD treatment in China, where local governments are attracting foreign and returning scientific and technological talent with lucrative funding and political backing.

Unlike controversial areas such as semiconductors and artificial intelligence, where technology transfer between the US and China is increasingly limited, Su believes that in medicine and health care, the two superpowers are encouraged to work together, since a large amount of clinical data is the foundation of medicine. Progress.

“We don’t want our study to just be published in Nature. We want it to help people in real life,” Su said.

The commercial prospects of cutting-edge and still-emerging technologies like gene-editing therapy are hard to predict, and the Theranos saga has only made VCs more wary of esoteric drugs. But Su saw the silver lining.

“The Theranos problem is none of his business, it is his science. We have no shortage of great scientists, but we also lack medical talent to be knowledgeable. We hope to fill this gap.”

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