Langer-backed Olivo advances a liquid polymer delivery tech for skin drugs


A low-profile spinoff from Bob Langer’s Living Proof is laying out some early success it’s had developing a formula for a new layer of artificial skin that could have both drug delivery as well as cosmetic potential.

Working off of insights Langer has been developing on polymers over the past 42 years, the team at Olivo Labs says that they have concocted an elastic silicone polymer formulation that can be invisibly applied to the skin. Langer says this new technology, the result of 5 years of work studying more than 100 different polymers, has demonstrated some real promise in mixing it with topical treatments for ailments like eczema and psoriasis. And they’re publishing their work in Nature Materials with an eye to advancing the technology toward commercialization.

“You can put it on your arm, apply it as a liquid,” Langer tells me, “and then it hardens,” without making a mess. “It’s very easy to apply, like an ointment.”

But Olivo is also studying the treatment for its cosmetic value, noting its ability to “tighten” aging skin.

“It’s like Spanx,” says the renowned MIT scientist, who's been involved in more than 30 startups. “You put it on and it tightens an area.”

One obvious focus would be the wrinkles that form around aging eyes, but Langer is quick to note that this is one liquid polymer you don’t want getting into the eye. The forearm, he says, might be a better place to start.

Living Proof was launched in 2014 to market a line of frizz-busting hair products that Langer and his team had helped come up with — part of an unusual set of consumer products for an investigator internationally known for his nanotech and regenerative medicine studies. Polaris Partners, which funded the Living Proof effort, is also backing Olivo, which is run by Polaris Managing Partner Amir Nashat as interim CEO.

“It’s definitely a platform,” says Nashat--one of Langer's many grad students that now populates the biotech ecosystem in Cambridge--about the spinoff. “We’re in clinical trials now. We’ll have results in the next 12 months.” And the medical applications will be the first up for development.

“Olivo is really good at creating biomaterials that work with the skin,” Nashat adds. But for now Nashat isn’t saying how many people work for the upstart.