Startups, Venture

Lyra pockets $29.5M to push ear, nose, throat applications of implant tech from Langer, Whitesides

Imagine having the worst cold of your life — and having it for 12 weeks straight.

Typically, physicians would try to manage the symptoms of chronic rhinosinusitis, like nasal discharge, obstruction or congestion, and facial pain, with a steroid spray. When that fails — as in about a third of cases — patients often consider surgery to open up access to the spray.

Bob Langer

But with an implant developed by MIT’s Bob Langer and Harvard’s George Whitesides, an upstart wants to provide an alternative that would go where nasal sprays can’t.

Lyra Therapeutics’ lead product, LYR-210, is a tiny polymeric matrix that, once placed deep into the sinonasal passages, can slowly release a steroid called mometasone furoate for six months.

It’s an approach that would solve three problems with the nasal spray, as the drug gets closer to the affected areas, stays for longer period of time, and eliminates any concern about compliance, CEO Maria Palasis tells me.

George Whitesides

This kind of benefit would be true for many more indications in the ear, nose and throat (ENT) space, Palasis adds, which is where Lyra is firmly putting its foot down.

“The ENT space is an emerging area right now,” she says, citing activities at both biotechs like Optinose and Intersect ENT as well as pharma companies like Sanofi. “There has been quite a bit of interest; the physician community is looking for new products to address the unmet need of their patients.”

They have just raised $29.5 million to prove that vision — which is a new one for Lyra. In its former life as 480 Biomedical, only three years ago, the company was focused on applying its drug release technology in peripheral artery disease. But when the execs saw a market shift, Palasis — a veteran of medical device giant Boston Scientific — quickly led a pivot into the ENT field.

None of that previous work is wasted, Palasis tells me.

“The fact that it’s miniaturized, the polymers and the biocompatibility of the polymers, the ability to release a drug for six months at a constant daily rate, all of that know-how was leveraged into the product we’ve developed for chronic rhinosinusitis,” she says.

Perceptive Advisors is convinced, as are RA Capital Management, ArrowMark Partners and Soleus Capital, who have come together for a Series B that would power a Phase II study scheduled for the first half of 2019. Existing investors Polaris Venture Partners, North Bridge Venture Partners and Intersouth Partners also chipped in.

The global trial will enroll 100 to 150 patients and begin in Australia and New Zealand, where Lyra got its first-in-human data in 2017.

Lyra currently has 20 employees in its Watertown, MA office, with plans to grow by 50% in the next year and a half.

Image: Maria Palasis. LYRA

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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