Start-up gets $1M for drug plan

Firm is working to bring KU research to marketplace

It was a drug administration system that was developed at Kansas University.

Now, a KU start-up company has received $1 million in private financing to push for public testing and Food and Drug Administration approval.

The start-up – Lawrence-based Savara Pharmaceuticals – bought the license for an aerosol drug delivery system developed within KU. Savara will now further develop the system out of its own pocket and seek federal approval.

George Laurence, president of Savara, said the goal of the aerosol was to deliver almost any drug directly into the lungs, resulting in safer delivery.

It could take several years before the company makes it through all the necessary hoops for human testing, however.

“We’re moving through the paces to fulfill certain FDA targets,” Laurence said. “It’s a couple years out. We’re hoping to meet with the FDA within six months.”

If the system eventually makes it out into the market and proves successful, the university will see a financial boost as well.

Jim Baxendale, director of the KU Center for Technology Commercialization, said by licensing university discoveries to private companies, KU receives royalties.

Oftentimes in university research, Baxendale said, a professor or researcher will make a discovery that has the potential to be developed in the private market. They will approach the center and ask to farm out the license to a private company.

Companies then purchase this license and further develop the discovery for the market.

If it eventually makes it out into the marketplace and turns a profit, KU will then receive a chunk of the proceeds.

The money the university gains from the proceeds is then sliced into thirds. One piece goes to the inventor, another goes to the department where the inventor works and then the other goes into a fund dedicated to further research.

Not that every license the center doles out is a success.

“These face the same challenges that anything does in the business world,” Baxendale said. “There’s always the danger that what you have won’t succeed.”

Baxendale said licensing university discoveries – such as the one given to Savara – helps the university more than financially. It helps retain researchers, he said, because they know their inventions might be further developed. It helps students gain a better understanding of how licensing works, as well.

However, there’s not much of a chance the university would enter the commercial development game, Baxendale said.

“We’re a nonprofit,” he said. “That’s not our job.”