More than a decade ago while conducting research at UB, Laurent Levy committed himself to a field that other scientists were just starting to understand: nanomedicine, the use of nanotechnology to address biomedical challenges like disease diagnosis and treatment.
At the time, Levy was a postdoctoral researcher at UB’s Institute for Lasers, Photonics and Biophotonics. With partners at UB and Roswell Park Cancer Institute, he developed two new technologies: magnetic nanoparticles for treatment and diagnosis of cancer (nanoMag) and laser-activated nanoparticles for cancer treatment (nanoPDT).
These innovations led to the formation of Nanobiotix, a French company that Levy co-launched in 2003, a few years after leaving UB in 1999. Since then, Nanobiotix’s product lines have grown to include NanoXray, a breakthrough technology that aims to amplify the effect of radiotherapy.
Levy’s decision to become an entrepreneur paid off in a big way last month. On Oct. 29, Nanobiotix became the latest company to be listed on the NYSE Euronext market following an initial public offering (IPO) that raised gross proceeds of 14.2 million euros ($18.1 million).
That success followed the announcement earlier this year of a deal with Asian firm PharmaEngine that will bring Nanobiotix up to $57 million and expedite the development of a cancer nanotherapeutic.
“UB has played a key role in the Nanobiotix story,” Levy said after the IPO. “When we launched Nanobiotix, we obtained a first license from UB, then a second one, that allowed us to build the first generation of products. We have been able to sub-license part of the applications of those technologies to develop products outside the cancer area. Those technologies will not be the first we will push to market, but have been essential to start our company.”
From Europe, Nanobiotix’s success is resonating in Western New York. The company’s licensing agreement for nanoMag and nanoPDT—which UB’s Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach (STOR) arranged—has brought royalties and other revenues to UB. The university uses these royalties, along with all other royalties from UB technologies, to enhance its research programs.
“The success of Nanobiotix is a terrific story for UB to celebrate,” said Alexander N. Cartwright, vice president for research and economic development. “The CEO of the company is a former UB postdoctoral associate and inventor from France who embodies the accomplishments and global prominence of UB’s research excellence. The transformative training our faculty provide, coupled with the entrepreneurial spirit they instill, enable our alumni to compete globally.”
Levy expressed appreciation for the excellent spirit of collaboration at UB, saying that the “reactivity and pragmatism of UB STOR have been essential for us and our success.”
At UB, Levy completed his postdoctoral research with SUNY Distinguished Professor Paras Prasad, executive director of the Institute for Lasers, Photonics and Biophotonics and an early visionary in the field of the nanomedicine. Prasad is a co-inventor on the nanoMag and nanoPDT technologies, which Nanobiotix licenses from SUNY.
“It is very satisfying to see the work we are doing in the laboratory have a positive impact on society,” said Prasad, a professor of chemistry, physics, electrical engineering and medicine. “Early on, Laurent had the foresight to understand the tremendous potential that nanotechnology has to improve the field of medicine.”
Robert Genco, vice provost and director of UB STOR, said the university is pleased that Nanobiotix has been successful. “This is a good example of putting UB research into action: Nanobiotix has a nanotechnology that shows great promise in treating cancer. It also illustrates the entrepreneurship of our scientists since Nanobiotix was started by a postdoctoral associate of Dr. Paras Prasad, one of our prominent faculty inventors.”