BUFFALO, N.Y. — Laurent Levy left the University at
Buffalo in 1999 with a dream: transforming his recently completed
postdoctoral research on nanomedicine into real-world products for
patients battling cancer.
Today, the scientist-turned-entrepreneur is zeroing in on that
In February, Levy’s drug development company, Nanobiotix,
announced that a cancer treatment called NBTXR3, the first product
from its NanoXray pipeline, had shown positive intermediate results
in a pilot clinical trial on patients with advanced soft tissue
sarcoma. These results allowed Nanobiotix to finalize and to
announce its development plan for the launch of NBTXR3 on the
market: with this first indication, advanced soft tissue sarcoma,
NBTXR3 could be approved in Europe as early as 2016.
The news led to a jump in the company’s stock price
— and new funding for research at UB.
Nanobiotix got its start in 2003 by licensing two technologies
that Levy, PhD, developed with colleagues at the university and
Roswell Park Cancer Institute: magnetic nanoparticles for cancer
treatment and diagnosis (NanoMag), and laser-activated
nanoparticles for cancer treatment (NanoPDT).
UB received company stock as part of the licensing agreement,
and sold the shares in February for $1.35 million. In accordance
with university policy, the majority will return to UB, to be
reinvested in research.
“This is a real success story,” said UB Vice Provost
Robert Genco, who oversees the Office of Science,
Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach (STOR). The office
helps commercialize UB discoveries, in part by handling patent
applications and licensing negotiations for technologies developed
at the university.
“Nanobiotix is an example of how UB is benefiting society:
As a postdoctoral researcher here, Laurent saw the medical and
commercial potential of the work he was doing and decided that he
wanted to take it further,” Genco said. “We’re a
global university, and we’re seeding companies not only in
Western New York, but around the world.”
At UB, Levy conducted postdoctoral research with SUNY
Distinguished Professor Paras Prasad, executive director of the
Institute of Laser, Photonics and Biophotonics (ILPB) at UB.
Prasad, PhD, is one of the world’s pre-eminent thinkers in
nanomedicine, which uses super-small particles, materials and
devices to treat and diagnose disease.
In the 1990s, when Levy was in Buffalo, the nanomedicine field
was just emerging. He joined Prasad’s lab, where he developed
the idea of using the unique properties of nanoparticles to kill
“It was an exciting field with a lot of great potential;
at this time, it was very new, and everything needed to be
done,” Levy remembers. “I moved to UB because of Dr.
Prasad, who proposed to me to develop my ideas in his lab. What I
found there was a great place with diverse expertise in biology,
physics, chemistry and medicine. This environment was quite unique
15 years ago, and clearly helped me in developing those
Since leaving UB, Levy has devoted more than a decade to growing
The company got its start by licensing the NanoMag and NanoPDT
technologies he co-invented at UB, and has since gone on to develop
new product lines including NanoXray — nanoparticles that
enable doctors to increase the radiotherapy dose in tumors without
increasing damage to surrounding healthy tissue.
The company’s promise has driven investor interest, with
the firm listed on the NYSE Euronext market in 2012 after an
initial public offering raised gross proceeds of 14.2 million euros
(about $18.1 million) and a capital increase completed in March
2014 of 28.1 million euros (about $38.5 million). The company now
has a current market value of over $300 million.
“In the 1990s, Laurent came to our lab with ideas that
were extremely forward-thinking for that time,” said Prasad,
a professor of chemistry, physics, medicine and electrical
engineering. “It has been extremely gratifying to be able to
help him move those ideas forward in a way that could offer
significant benefits to society.”
NANO / ISIN: FR0011341205) is a clinical-stage nanomedicine company
pioneering novel approaches for the local treatment of cancer. The
company’s first-in-class, proprietary technology, NanoXray,
enhances radiotherapy energy to provide a new, more efficient
treatment for cancer patients. NanoXray products are compatible
with current radiotherapy treatments and are meant to treat a wide
variety of cancers via multiple routes of administration.