Greenville startup develops drug-carrying nanoparticles to enhance medical treatments

Zylö Therapeutics CEO and founder Scott Pancoast. Photo by Will Crooks.

The use of nanotechnology has exploded over the past few decades, with more and more manufacturers including nanoparticles (microscopic particles that are bigger than an atom but smaller than what the human eye can see) in clothing, food, and various other consumer products to improve texture, kill microbes, or enhance shelf life.

Now a Greenville-based startup is ramping up operations to manufacture a nanoparticle-based drug delivery system that’s capable of treating infectious diseases, accelerating wound healing, and correcting vascular dysfunction.

“Many therapeutic compounds begin to lose their healing properties as soon as they touch the skin,” said Scott Pancoast, CEO and founder of Zylö Therapeutics.

Using a patented process, Zylö Therapeutics combines therapeutic compounds (nitric oxide, curcumin, etc.) with hydrogel-based nanoparticles and transforms them into an ointment, gel, or cream.

The drug-carrying nanoparticles gradually lodge under the skin when applied, resulting in a 24-hour release of the selected compound that increases efficiency and reduces negative side effects.

Pancoast said the nanoparticle-based drug delivery system is the brainchild of Dr. Joel Friedman, a professor of physiology and biophysics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Dr. Adam Friedman, an associate professor of dermatology at George Washington University.

In 2006, the father-and-son duo set out to create a sustainable delivery method for nitric oxide. The colorless gas, which is naturally produced by the human body, has been found to increase blood flow and improve circulation, which means more oxygen and vital nutrients being distributed to muscles, organs, and tissues. But nitric oxide is only active for a few seconds due to its small size, extremely short half-life, and instability.

After years of research, the duo created a biodegradable hydrogel containing silane composite nanoparticles that release nitric oxide over time. A reaction between sodium nitrite and a sugar generates nitric oxide during the manufacturing process. The concentration of nitric oxide released and the time required are controlled by altering the amount and molecular weight of other ingredients.

“While we have known for decades that nitric oxide has tremendous potential in so many areas of medicine, its use has been limited due to the lack of effective delivery systems,” Adam Friedman said. “Here we used a well-studied nanoparticle that can actually make nitric oxide, not just release it, and deliver therapeutic levels over time to attack these deep and difficult to reach infections.”

Pancoast said the company’s nanoparticles, also known as Nanopods, are capable of delivering nitric oxide into the skin to help accelerate wound healing, treat bacterial infections, and reduce inflammation caused by dermatological conditions like eczema and acne.

A recent study published by Friedman and several other researchers in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology shows that the release of nitric oxide using nanoparticles actually kills bacteria associated with acne. The nanoparticles also inhibit the inflammation that causes the large, painful pimples associated with inflammatory acne.

Zylö Therapeutics also plans to use its system to deliver curcumin, a chemical compound with powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In a series of laboratory tests with mice, Friedman and other researchers found that the release of curcumin can reduce bacteria in MRSA-infected burn wounds and stop the progression of osteoarthritis, a type of arthritis that affects 3 million Americans each year.

“While so much is known about curcumin’s therapeutic potential, there have been numerous limitations with respect to clinical translation resulting from its poor solubility, instability at physiology pH, and unsightly yellow-orange color,” Friedman said. “Nanotechnology can and has overcome many of these impediments. At the nanoscale, the likelihood of curcumin interfacing with its intended target is much greater.”

Other therapeutic compounds that can be incorporated into the Nanopod system include cannabinoids, lidocaine, allicin, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, melanin, antioxidants, and amphotericin B.

Zylö Therapeutics, which is headquartered at the Next on Main facility in downtown, plans to outsource production to a contract manufacturing organization and sublicense its system to private pharmaceutical and cosmeceutical companies, according to Pancoast. “Our goal is to get 15 to 20 partnerships within the first three years of operation,” he said.

The company is also looking to open a formulation and product development laboratory at the Clemson University Biomedical Engineering Innovation Center or Greenville Hospital System Institute for Translational Oncology Research, according to Pancoast.

Zylö Therapeutics has already secured $1.3 million from investors and plans to release a cosmeceutical product by the end of 2019. The company is now looking to raise another $4.7 million for marketing efforts, clinical trials, and other costs.

If successful, Zylö Therapeutics could benefit from a booming market. According to BCC Research, the global market for nanoparticles in the life sciences is forecast to grow to more than $79.8 billion in 2019, with the biggest increase likely to be seen in the area of drug delivery systems.

Pancoast said the Nanopod system is currently being tested on animal models in hopes that it can be moved to human clinical trials in the near future. Zylö Therapeutics is also working to develop a paramagnetic nanoparticle that can penetrate the blood-brain barrier to kill a tumor.

“Doctors will be able to guide the Nanopods to any part of the body with a projected magnetic field,” he said. “It will be a big step for targeted therapy.”

For more information, visit


Related Articles