KU startup presents cancer-fighting technology to angel investors in Washington

A Kansas University startup has a big opportunity this week: Sharing its story at a national convention for people with a lot of money looking for businesses to invest in.

HylaPharm, which specializes in cancer drug delivery technology, is the first KU company to be invited to the Angel Capital Association Summit Innovation Showcase.

The Washington, D.C., summit is the world’s largest gathering of accredited angel investors. The showcase portion allows a handful of promising companies to present their technology to investors and get feedback and, potentially, support.

A team of KU faculty founded HylaPharm in 2010, based on research they did at the university. KU Medical Center director of dermatology Dan Aires is president and CEO, and KU pharmaceutical chemist Laird Forrest is chief science officer and chief operating officer.

“This is 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,” Aires said in a news release from KU.

About 200,000 Americans are diagnosed each year with locally advanced cancers that can be highly lethal, including head and neck, melanoma and breast, HylaPharm’s technology summary says. The company’s patented HylaPlat method is the first to target such cancers by delivering more than 100 times more drug directly to the tumor and lymph nodes while limiting exposure to other organs. It relies on nano-sized Hyaluronan, a natural compound in the body that cancers stick to, and has shown effectiveness in mice and dogs.

“For most drugs, there’s a trade-off between side effects and efficacy,” Aires said. “But for patients with certain kinds of cancer, our new technology has the potential to be both safer and stronger.”

HylaPharm is located in the Bioscience and Technology Business Center Expansion Facility adjacent to the KU campus.

The business is one of 24 active KU startup companies, according to KU.

Julie Goonewardene is associate vice chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship and president of KU Innovation and Collaboration, the unit that coordinates the university’s commercialization and entrepreneurship efforts.

“Our goal is to transfer KU discoveries from the laboratory to the marketplace, and that includes encouraging faculty to start new companies,” she said in a prepared statement. “HylaPharm is an incredible example of the great work being done by KU researchers at both campuses.”