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From Santiago to Riverside

By Alexandra Orozco |

A Chilean’s entrepreneur journey to bring a drug delivery technology to the US market

Javier Morales, an entrepreneur and professor at Universidad de Chile is on the way to have his company PRIME Technologies, incubated in Riverside in partnership with the University of California Riverside (UCR).  Javier and his team developed a film, similar to a breath freshening strip, that when placed in the mouth, serves as a vehicle to deliver drugs such as insulin into the bloodstream. 

It all started in 2013 after Javier spent several years during his PhD researching the buccal (inside the check) delivery of pharmaceutical drugs.  He then went on to work on the “printing” of those drugs on specialized films which solved the issues inherent to other technologies.  

In 2016 the first patent for the technology was filed in Chile and, with the support of Chilean government and university grants, the research to test and validate the technology continued.

In 2018, Javier together with a team of entrepreneur experts in technology transfer founded PRIME with the objective of commercializing the printing technology that he had discovered. Prior to forming his company PRIME, Javier met with technology transfer experts, entrepreneurs, venture funds, other academics and attended training in business. 

In 2019, Javier’s company participated in the program Know Hub Ignition, offered by Know Hub Chile, an association of eleven Chilean universities, in partnership with UCR’s Office of Technology Partnerships. The program paired the PRIME team with a UCR mentoring team and through an intensive ten-week entrepreneurship training followed by a one-week immersion in Riverside validated the technology in the US market with potential clients. Throughout the process PRIME was introduced to investors in California as well as potential strategic partnerships.  The team drove through Southern California during the immersion week with its UCR mentor and held over a dozen meetings with potential customers and partners such as Eli Lilly Biotechnology, Cure Pharmaceuticals and City of Hope among others.  

In 2019 Juanita Castañeda joined PRIME as CEO as the team was entering the Know Hub Ignition program, bringing experience in the pharmaceutical industry to the team. Since PRIME participated in Know Hub Ignition it has been recognized on various fronts including being a finalist for the Chilean Innovation Prize Avonni 2020 presented by the ForoInnovacion Foundation and other partners. 

Given the positive outcomes from the Know Hub Ignition program and the immersion in Riverside, UCR further partnered with Know Hub Chile to explore the possibility of helping PRIME come to Riverside for incubation supported by UCR’s team of mentor experts, specifically to further advance its product development research and solidify collaboration with strategic partners. 

Javier’s advice to entrepreneurs from academia is to “trust in their science and the research results and find the best way to protect the intellectual property which will be the foundation for a future startup”.  Regarding the business component of a startup, Javier suggests that entrepreneurs talk to as many people with business experience as possible to learn what it takes to bring science to the market before making poor decisions.

Javier’s Chilean technology could be the future of insulin drug delivery in the US and the rest of the world.  We, at UCR are working on it.