An eye on changing (forever) how medicine is taken

Eyes on the prize: It's ophthalmology to start, but Stony Brook startup Sustained Nano Systems believes it can revolutionize pharmaceutical-delivery systems across the healthcare spectrum.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

As a writer of mystery novels, Barry Libin understands the creative process. (His “The Mystery of the Milton Manuscript,” in fact, may be the vanguard of an entirely new genre: historical-poetry adventure).

As a successful entrepreneur, he understands the touch-and-go world of business formation (he sold off a prior startup, Manhasset-based BML Pharmaceuticals, for a “significant” sum back in 2005).

And as a trained periodontist, the graduate of Stony Brook University’s Harriman School of Business and the NYU College of Dentistry recognizes a chronic and critical problem with modern medicine (getting patients to take their meds).

These disparate experiences come together in Sustained Nano Systems LLC, which CEO Libin and several partners incorporated in 2008 and may now be on the verge of rewriting 21st century treatment protocols.

Based in SBU’s Long Island High-Technology Incubator and working closely with cohorts in the university’s Center for Biotechnology, the nine-year-old enterprise has taken the scenic route on its quest to change how pharmaceuticals are delivered to patients – but its origins, according to Libin, will be familiar to anyone who’s ever indulged an inventive thought.

“It doesn’t matter what you create,” he told Innovate LI. “It’s the same creative process, whether you write musicals or write novels or want to start a company.”

In the case of Sustained Nano Systems, the entrepreneurial author and his friends focus squarely on the latter. The idea is for “people to be able to take their drugs in a more effective way, an easier way,” Libin noted, by swapping daily-dosage requirements for one-shot nanotechnology-based injections that slowly deliver meds over a course of months.

“We’re making it as easy as possible for patients to take their drugs,” Libin said. “So, patients in chronic disease states are no longer involved with taking their medications every day or every week, or even every month.”

While they have eyes for a range of pharmaceuticals treating a host of conditions, the Sustained Nano Systems team is focused first on ophthalmology. That makes sense, since company executives – all MDs and PhDs – represent “the top ophthalmologists in the country,” according to the CEO.

Cofounder Jeffrey Liebman is vice-chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology at Columbia University Medical Center and boasts a rich history of glaucoma-related research; Chief Medical Officer Uri Shabto is a leading specialist in retinal disease; former SBU biomedical engineering professor Weiliam Chen, co-founder of LIHTI-based hemostasis startup EndoMedix, lends his expertise on biodegradable polymer matrices, gene delivery and tissue engineering.

Barry Libin: Eyes up, ear to the ground.

Other execs and directors boast significant experience with cataract and refractive surgeries, macular degeneration, pharmaceuticals and intellectual-property law – an all-bases-covered formula for an upstart biopharma intent on staking a claim as a savior for vision-impaired patients with long-term medicinal needs.

“For example, patients with glaucoma have to take four eye drops a day for the rest of their lives,” Libin noted. “We are now able to allow them to take one injection that lasts for six months.”

Worth noting is that Sustained Nano Systems is not inventing new treatments, but instead working on new delivery systems for “drugs that are already approved,” according to Libin.

“People are already taking these drugs and they’re effective,” the CEO said. “The problem is, how often do they have to take them?”

To that end, the goal is to literally take the dosing out of the patients’ hands. In simplest terms, the patented nanotechnology – one U.S. patent approved, one pending, two more applications coming soon, Libin said – allows the team to inject “small molecules that capture the drug” and release it as required for up to six months, “whatever the physician wants prescribed.”

Sustained Nano Systems has completed laboratory work on three separate pharmaceuticals to date and is now beginning clinical tests on an anti-inflammatory drug for post-surgical cataract patients who traditionally must take several eye drops daily to promote recovery.

“These are mainly older people,” Libin noted. “[The eyedrops] land on the floor half the time.

“Now, during the surgery, the doctors can give an injection of these particles, and they will disappear after about 21 days.”

Sustained Nano Systems has been largely self-funded to date: Libin, a self-described “serial entrepreneur,” noted “significant money” from his sale of BML Pharmaceuticals to specially branded manufacturer Endo Pharmaceuticals.

But with its clinical trials commencing, the Stony Brook company is about to get serious about fundraising. Libin anticipates setting a $10 million round, though how he and his partners will get there remains to be seen.

“I have some decisions to make,” the CEO noted. “Do I want to go public, with all the problems that can include? Do I want to go to private individuals, or do I go to investment bankers?”

For answers to these and other pressing questions, stay tuned. For now, the Sustained Nano Systems team is focused squarely on those clinical runs – and on proving their time-release nanotechnology truly can change the way patients take their meds.

“We have a broad framework in ophthalmology, so if a company wants to have an entire platform of ophthalmology drugs, we can provide them with that,” Libin said. “We’re doing ophthalmology first, but we’ll be able to utilize this with proteins for cancer therapy, for instance.

“This can go in a lot of different directions.”

Sustained Nano Systems LLC

What’s It? Nanotechnology-fueled pharmaceutical-delivery systems

Brought To You By: Man of mystery Barry Libin, plus “the top ophthalmologists in the country”

Status: Today your eyes, tomorrow the world