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Monday December 5th

DeSimone receives $10 million Gates Foundation investment

$10 million goes to biotechnology

	<p><span class="caps">UNC</span> professor Joseph DeSimone (left) won a $10 million investment from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for his program <span class="caps">PRINT</span>.</p>
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UNC professor Joseph DeSimone (left) won a $10 million investment from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for his program PRINT.

When he met Bill Gates at a conference in May 2010, UNC pharmacology professor Joseph DeSimone knew how to get his attention.

He told Gates that his company, Liquidia Technologies, was producing medicine and vaccines using the same manufacturing techniques as Microsoft.

His pitch worked.

On March 4, Liquidia Technologies announced it had received a $10 million program-related investment from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for the development of Particle Replication in Non-wetting Templates (PRINT) technology, which could make research and development of medicines more efficient.

PRINT is a form of top-down nanotechnology, which DeSimone said had been previously non-existent in similar projects. It creates nanoparticles uniform in size, shape and chemical composition.

Chemists typically use bottom-up nanotechnology to make particles, whereas electrical engineers typically use top-down nanotechnology to create patterns on surfaces.

“We bridged two very different fields and techniques …. No one’s done that before,” he said.

DeSimone said the idea came to him in 2004 when he noted the need for a more sophisticated manufacturing process which could create physically uniform particles.

Liquidia then started making what DeSimone describes as “ice cube trays on a nanoscale template.”

“I felt that size and shape would be two really important variables that would lead to more efficient medicines and vaccines,” he said.

The Gates Foundation saw promise in this technique and, after numerous meetings and thorough collaboration, gave what DeSimone said was its first-ever equity investment in a biotechnology company to Liquidia.

“This investment partnership will help the foundation advance vaccine development as part of our commitment to help research, develop and deliver vaccines for the world’s poorest people,” said Andrew Farnum, a senior program investment officer of the Gates Foundation, in an e-mail.

Since the foundation is an investor, it will play a permanent role in Liquidia. Members will act as observers on the board of directors and will maintain a formal role in the company.

DeSimone’s goals parallel those of the foundation. He said he wants to see Liquidia become a leader in medicine technology and for its developments to be cost-effective enough to address global health needs.

He said he wishes to see something produced by his N.C. company help people across the world.

“As the field of vaccines continues to grow, success will be defined by our ability to produce and deliver highly efficacious therapies in quantities and costs that will support the global demand,” said Liquidia CEO Neal Fowler in a press release.

DeSimone said the investment will be used for researching, planning and forming new vaccines and creating strategic partnerships with pharmaceutical companies.

“It’s going to get us to the next stage of clinical development,” he said. “We think it’s just the beginning …. There are dozens and dozens of products that will emerge from PRINT.”

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