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Evonik Partners with Stanford University to Develop Polymer-Based Drug-Delivery Platform

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The three-year project focuses on the development of a drug-delivery system that will enable the next generation of mRNA-based medicine, according to Evonik.

Specialty chemicals company Evonik reports that it has embarked on a three-year collaboration with Stanford University this month to develop a technology to deliver mRNA to tissues and organs that transcends the capabilities of lipid nanoparticles (LNPs). The polymer-based platform will complement Evonik’s existing portfolio of lipid-based drug delivery, including LNPs. Evonik said that it will license and commercialize the technology, part of a larger strategy to accelerate a shift in the portfolio of the life science division, Nutrition & Care, toward system solutions, which currently represent 20% of the portfolio. Evonik wants to expand that to 50% by 2030 to take advantage of high growth prospects and above-average margin potential.

“We are proud to collaborate with Stanford University and combine our innovative power in advanced drug delivery. Through this project we look forward to enabling the next generation of mRNA-based medicine,” said Dr. Thomas Riermeier, head of Evonik’s Health Care business line, in a prepared statement. 

The delivery of mRNA effectively and safely into the cell is one of the biggest challenges for expanding the use of mRNA therapeutics to promising fields such as cancer immunotherapy, protein replacement, and gene editing, according to Evonik. Pointing to its expertise in drug-delivery applications, Evonik said that it is well-positioned to address many of the pharma industry’s unmet needs. Evonik’s accessible market for LNP-based delivery systems alone reportedly is forecast to be in excess of $5 billion by 2026.

“If we are to harness the full potential of mRNA therapeutics, we will need a toolbox of drug-delivery technologies to target an expanded range of tissues and organs,” said Dr. Stefan Randl, Vice President of Research, Development, & Innovation for Evonik Health Care. “Therefore, it is a great pleasure to collaborate with Stanford University and bring our expertise in advanced drug delivery to commercialize the new platform.”

Evonik will work with Stanford University scientists to scale up the synthesis and formulation, and further develop this innovative technology for organ-selective delivery based on a non-animal-derived, synthetic degradable polymer. Evonik aims to make this technology available for use in clinical-stage developments and, ultimately, on a commercial scale. 

The polymer-based delivery platform, known as CART (Charge Altering Releasable Transporters), was developed by professors Robert Waymouth, Paul Wender, and Ronald Levy of Stanford University.

Evonik notes that it recognized the potential of gene-based therapeutic approaches early in the emergence of these advances and made a targeted investment with the acquisition of Transferra Nanosciences in 2016. The Vancouver-based laboratories have a strong focus on parenteral drug formulation development using lipid nanoparticles and liposomes. 

The portfolio was further expanded in 2020 with the acquisition of Wilshire Technologies, a US manufacturer of non-animal derived excipients for the pharmaceutical industry. This includes PhytoChol, a non-animal derived cholesterol, used in many commercial parenteral pharmaceutical products.

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