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drugs can be pumped into the body in one sitting, and patients typically must return to their doctor for each dose. The thesis at Taris is that delivering drugs directly to the bladder, in controlled amounts over a defined period of time, could overcome some of the limitations of the current treatment options.
“It’s elegantly simple, and we thought that it was going after an organ, the bladder, that this device uniquely addressed,” says Michael Greeley, a general managing partner at Flybridge, whose firm was the first to work with Cima and Langer to fund the startup.
Greeley points to Taris as a case study in transitioning academic research from a lab into a company. The Deshpande Center, which provides grants and other support to help MIT researchers translate science and technology into commercially viable products, awarded an initial grant to Cima to develop the Taris’ device in December 2005, says Greeley. While the project was still based in Cima’s lab, Greeley served as a Deshpande Center volunteer “catalyst,” or industry mentor, to help it on the road to commercialization.
Cima and his collaborators have since completed a study in which they showed that the device could deliver controlled amounts of bladder treatments in rabbits over a certain period. Langer, a scientific founder of more than a dozen biotech startups, has contributed his vast knowledge of drug delivery as well as technology from his MIT lab to Taris. Greeley noted that Flybridge has now invested in four Boston-area startups co-founded by Cima, including MicroCHIPS, T2 Biosystems, and Entra Pharmaceuticals. Langer is also among the founders of MicroCHIPS and T2.
Bunt told me why Taris has remained secretive over the past year. She says she wanted to solidify a development strategy, recruit people to the board of directors, and, more recently, complete talks with the FDA before giving the public a look at the company. Well, the nine-employee firm now plans to take its first drug-device combination product into clinical trials later this year, having talked to regulators about the design of the study earlier this spring. The startup has also recruited Ernest Mario, a veteran life sciences executive and former CEO of British drug giant Glaxo Holdings (now GlaxoSmithKline) to its board, she says.
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