Pharma, Startups

Hallux tackles toenail fungus with $7M from Deerfield

The company has developed a subungual micro-insert that treats toenail fungus at the site itself – avoiding systemic exposure to powerful antifungal drugs that are typically taken orally.

Stealth Los Angeles-area startup Hallux is building a newfangled drug-delivery combo to treat toenail fungus: It’s in early clinical trials for its micro-insert that delivers a high dose of  a powerful antifungal drug directly to the toenail – so as to prevent systemic exposure to the drug.

The three-year-old company just raised $7 million to conduct three proof of concept trials, CEO Mark Taylor said in a phone interview. The round was led by Deerfield Management.

Hallux is based off of technology acquired from another startup that used the drug – however, it failed in clinical trials and went bankrupt, Taylor said.

“We feel we have the expertise and intellectual property to improve upon what that company had done,” Taylor said, though he won’t indicate which company Hallux acquired the technology from.

One of the most effective therapies for toenail fungus is a drug called Lamasil, or terbinafine hydrochloride. While highly effective, this drug is administered orally over several weeks – and can have some serious side effects as the drug builds up throughout the body.

Hallux contends that its drug delivery device, which is inserted below the nail in an in-office procedure, could cure onychomycosis more efficiently and safely than the oral drugs.

Topical antifungals are available to treat this condition, but they’re much less effective than oral drugs because they can’t properly penetrate the nail in adequate concentrations. This delivery mechanism is meant to improve patient compliance.

The incidence of toenail fungus is on the rise – which could render less toxic treatments lucrative.

[Image from Flickr user Nader]