Langer’s Lyndra Therapeutics bags $55M to advance ‘ultralong-acting’ pill

Lyndra Therapeutics has raised a $55 million series B round to expand its early-stage pipeline of “ultralong-acting” medicines, boost manufacturing and carry out a phase 2 trial of a long-acting pill for the treatment of schizophrenia. 

HOPU Investments, Gilead Sciences, Invus, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Orient Life pitched in, alongside Polaris Partners and the rest of Lyndra’s series A backers. 

The Watertown, Massachusetts-based company spun out of Bob Langer’s lab at MIT in 2015. Its “ultralong-acting” pill has been tested in phase 1 trials in Australia. About the size of a vitamin, its pill is designed to release one or more drugs over the course of a week or longer. After a patient swallows the pill, it opens up into a star shape in the stomach, which prevents it from being passed, said Lyndra CEO Amy Schulman, J.D., in 2016, when the company published a study showing that the pill delivered a controlled release of a malaria drug in pigs. This geometry allows the pill to then release a drug for days to weeks. At a predetermined point in time, the pill then breaks down and safely passes through the gastrointestinal tract. 

“Lyndra’s long-acting therapies have the potential to address a diversity of disease states,” said Langer, who co-founded Lyndra and sits on its board, in the announcement. A once-weekly pill in the place of a daily pill, or a medicine that must be taken multiple times a day, would ease the treatment burden on both patients and caregivers, and improve adherence. 

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The company is working to submit an IND for its schizophrenia pill this year in the hopes of kicking off a phase 2 study in 2020. But it’s not alone in trying to improve medication adherence in schizophrenia—in 2017, Otsuka and Proteus Digital Health earned FDA approval for their sensor-enabled version of the former’s schizophrenia drug Abilify. However, unlike Lyndra, whose pill would make treatment easier and reduce opportunities for noncompliance, Otsuka and Proteus’ pill is designed to track when a patient takes his or her medication. 

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Lyndra also hopes to push other drug candidates—developed in-house and with partners—through the clinic. It is starting with schizophrenia, but its pipeline includes once-weekly treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, psychiatric disorders, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, immunology and HIV. It also has a once-monthly contraceptive pill in very early development, as well as a biweekly pill for malaria vector control. 

“People around the world depend on medications that require taking a pill every single day or even multiple times a day,” said Schulman in 2016. “That approximately 50% of patients in the developed world do not take their medicines as prescribed, a statistic that is even more challenging in the developing world, has a demonstrable effect on healthcare outcomes and a cost estimates to the U.S. healthcare system alone of over $100 billion annually.”