July 10

Press Release: Particles for Humanity Secures $5 Million and License to Develop Encapsulation Technology for Vitamin A Deficiency

Particles for Humanity, a healthcare company transforming early-stage technologies into products for people in low-resource settings, has received $5 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a product that has potential to help millions of people who suffer serious medical consequences from malnutrition. The technology, licensed from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), was invented in the renowned Langer Lab by Drs. Robert Langer and Ana Jaklenec, and published in Science and Translational Medicine.

Particles for Humanity is developing a product, PFH-VAP, which will enable vitamin A to be integrated into bouillon—a condiment consumed by the majority of people in sub-Saharan Africa, where vitamin A deficiency is prevalent and deadly. Fortifying widely consumed foods is a proven strategy for reducing malnutrition at scale. PFH-VAP will stabilize vitamin A to ensure that its nutritional benefits are delivered to the consumer.

“PFH-VAP has the potential to prevent night blindness, stunting, and death for 250 million school-age children and 19 million pregnant women who suffer from vitamin A deficiency,” says Particles for Humanity’s CEO and Co-founder Sherri C. Oberg. “The timelines and funding requirements to develop this product are much faster and less expensive than anything I have ever seen in my long career in biotechnology.”

Funding was provided through two grants from the Gates Foundation. The first grant resulted in an encapsulated formulation of vitamin A, with improved storage stability over a widely used commercial form of vitamin A and manufactured using a commercially viable process. The second grant will fund Particles for Humanity to develop PFH-VAP and prepare it for commercial production. The first grant of $1.5 million closed in January 2019, the second grant of $3.7 million closed in May 2020, and the license agreement with MIT was executed in June 2020. This license provides non-exclusive rights to the technology in low- and middle-income countries.

“The life-saving potential to reduce malnutrition was the motivation for inventing this breakthrough technology at MIT. Highly specialized skills are required to transform a promising invention into a cost-effective product ready for human consumption at scale. Particles for Humanity’s team has the expertise and motivation to get this invention from our lab out into the world where it can save lives,” says Dr. Robert S. Langer, PhD, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT and co-founder and board member at Particles for Humanity.


Photo courtesy of Keoni Cabral.

Source: Press Release (link opens in a new window)

Health Care
nutrition, public health