The financing comes at the end of a busy year for the company, which established a UK subsidiary and completed its first Phase I clinical trial of a product based on its technology.
OptiNose was founded in 2000 to commercialise a novel technology designed to dramatically increase the efficiency of nasal drug delivery, and open up this route to a wider range of therapeutic agents. Nasal delivery is of interest to drug developers as it can provide good systemic absorption, and OptiNose claims that its technology can rival intravenous administration in its speed of action.
The main limitation with nasal delivery is that the main approach to improving penetration of the drug - using smaller particles - heightens the risk that the drug could be deposited in the lungs. But OptiNose has developed a system that isolates the nasal passages and prevents this happening.
The firm's bi-functional delivery system relies on two elements of the nose's anatomy. Firstly, during exhalation the soft palate closes, cutting off the nasal passages from those of the lung. Secondly, once the soft palate is closed, a passage opens between the two nostrils to create a common nasal airway.
OptiNose has addressed these two anatomical factors with its drug delivery device. The inhaler is inserted into one nostril by a sealing nozzle as the subject blows into a mouthpiece. The combination of closed soft palate and sealed nozzle creates an airflow which enters one nostril, travels through the common pathway and exits through the other nostril, with no deposition in the lung.
By altering the conformation of the device - for example by partially blocking the exit of the airflow, OptiNose can target drugs to specific regions of the nasal passages, such as the adenoids, sinuses, middle ear or even the olfactory bulb - providing a means of delivering drugs directly to the central nervous system.
The company is initially focused on improving the delivery of generic medicines, and the new funding will enable it to develop further versions of the device, including a multi-use device to better satisfy the needs of some potential partners.
"By combining our delivery technology with selected off patent drug substances we can create combination products with safety and efficacy profiles that transcend the performance of ordinary nasal sprays," said OptiNose CEO Helena Djupesland.
She noted that the device is suitable for single or multi-dosing of both liquid and powder formulations, with either topical or systemic action. Areas where nasal delivery is of particular interest include obesity, vaccines, rescue medications such as morphine, epilepsy and panic attacks as well as obvious targets such as sinusitis and rhinitis.
The company recently published a study showing there is no lung deposition with the bi-directional technology and will be publishing its Phase I trials results - using the device to deliver a neuroactive compound - in 2005.
After unveiling the device at the BioPartnering Europe (BPE) in London in the autumn, OptiNose is now in discussions with several pharma companies and smaller biotechnology firms.