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Impel NeuroPharma co-founder and CEO John-Hoekman. (Impel NeuroPharma Photo)
Impel NeuroPharma co-founder and CEO John Hoekman. (Impel NeuroPharma Photo)

Impel NeuroPharma, a Seattle-based biotechnology and pharmaceutical company, announced a $36 million Series C round to develop neurological drugs and an accompanying delivery device that bypasses the blood-brain barrier.

The company received equal investments from VenBIO, 5AM Ventures and Vivo Capital, all Bay-area firms focused on life science investments.

Impel’s drug delivery device, known as Precision Olfactory Delivery or POD, is designed to be a less invasive and more efficient way to deliver drugs that treat central nervous system disorders, everything from chronic migraines to Parkinson’s disease.

Crossing the blood-brain barrier is a huge challenge for drugs that treat neurological disorders. POD circumvents the barrier by delivering neurological drugs through the nose, taking advantage of the existing nose-to-brain pathway provided by olfactory nerves.

This pathway is far back in the nose and difficult to access, meaning many nasal drug delivery platforms cannot easily reach it. The POD is designed to overcome that barrier.

Impel is also developing a range of drugs to treat neurological conditions like chronic pain and Alzheimer’s disease, which are designed to be delivered by the POD.

“The nasal cavity is a vastly underutilized entry point for therapeutics into the circulation,” Impel co-founder and CEO John Hoekman said in a press release. “This form of administration may allow for an improvement in biodistribution and consistency compared to current delivery methods. Impel NeuroPharma is striving to use the POD system to develop improved drug-device combination products in underserved patient populations.”

“The biodistribution data that Impel NeuroPharma has generated with the POD delivery platform demonstrates its potential to improve our approach to treating multiple diseases. We’re excited to use the platform to bring new treatments to patients,” Aaron Royston of venBIO said in the release.

POD is also non-invasive, low-cost and disposable, according to Impel’s website, which gives it advantages over other drug delivery options, such as intravenous delivery.

Impel is currently engaged in clinical trials of drugs delivered by POD, including one for chronic migraines and one for Alzheimer’s disease. The company is also pursuing a trial of Parkinson’s disease through a partnership with another pharmaceutical company and expects more clinical trials to begin next year, according to the release.

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