How Iron Deficiency Anemia Patients May Find New Relief from Groundbreaking Novel Treatment


Iron deficiency anemia (IDA) is one of the most prevalent nutritional disorders globally.  An estimated 40% of children 6-59 months, 37% of pregnant women, and 30% of women 15-49 years suffer from IDA. This condition is mainly due to the lack of red blood cells or hemoglobin in the blood. This makes it difficult for oxygen to reach cells throughout the body, leading to a host of physical and cognitive impairments. 

In mild cases, people with iron deficiency anemia lack energy, feel weak, and experience headaches. Others with more severe conditions have rapid and/or difficult breathing, bruise easily, develop unusually pale skin, lose hair, and may suffer from heart palpitations, which could lead to heavier menstrual cycles in some women. In extreme cases, patients could experience musculoskeletal, immunological, and neurological issues. These biological impacts create major issues in academic, social, and personal circumstances. Iron deficiency anemia can affect school performance, social interaction, and the ability to concentrate, and even lead to premature birth, development complications, and maternal mortality, among other things.

Like many other medical conditions, IDA can worsen pre-existing diseases and cause long-term consequences if diagnosis and treatment are postponed. Young women of child bearing age are the most likely to experience iron deficiency anemia, which underlines the critical importance of managing symptoms and receiving the right care. 

Oral supplements and intravenous iron therapy are the two most popular treatment plans for this condition. However, their results are marred by gastrointestinal side effects and the risk of life-threatening allergic reactions. When compared side-by-side, oral supplements are an affordable and safe method for addressing mild cases of IDA. Patients can take tablets without needing to visit a clinic, but they will likely encounter nausea, constipation, diarrhea, and headaches due to the body's reaction to a nutrient like iron in higher doses. Adjusting the dosage can sometimes be helpful to avoid these side effects, but oral supplements have a very low absorption rate. They must be processed through the body and a portion of iron will always be lost. 

Due to these drawbacks, people with more severe cases of IDA are often given IV iron therapy. Iron can directly enter the bloodstream bypassing the digestive system, so this method comes with relatively few side effects. However, in rare cases, patients can enter anaphylactic shock when receiving treatment. These events are uncommon, but if it does happen, it could be fatal. Not to mention that IV iron therapy can only be prescribed by a specialist, and can only be administered at a healthcare facility, driving up patient costs while lowering and delaying access.

Keylika, a biopharma startup backed by Y Combinator, is leading the charge to a new era of iron deficiency anemia treatment. The early-stage startup is developing the world's first prescription resorbable buccal patch, NistuFe, that will eliminate gastrointestinal side effects and enable self-administration with superior absorption compared to the current standard of care. This could potentially result in NistuFe being considered the best-in-class drug for IDA.

This transdermal therapeutic breakthrough has much lower risk, higher efficacy, and better tolerability than existing IDA treatments. Keylika has carefully scaled this technology by harnessing its expertise in drug development and delivery. By customizing the iron molecule's structure and formulation, Keylika has created a new iron chemical entity, which they have developed into a drug tailored for skin-based delivery.

Keylika's focus on hematology will serve a neglected patient population and possibly lead to further innovation in drug delivery. The startup's founders, Buddhadev ‘Buddha' P. Chaudhuri PhD and Frederik Ceyssens PhD, have applied cutting-edge scientific research and technology to bring these products to life. While they are not yet available commercially, NistuFe, which contains Keylika's proprietary iron chemical entity, has had promising results in preclinical studies. 

Buddha, who has over a decade of experience in biotechnology, material science, and drug delivery, and serves as Keylika's CEO, is highly invested in bringing the company's technology to those in need. His expertise in medical devices, R&D, and biotech startups has equipped him to guide Keylika's impact. Co-founder and CTO Frederik Ceyssens is equally committed to shouldering the challenge of redefining iron deficiency care. Frederik has 15+ years of R&D experience specifically focusing on micro-implantable devices and deeply complements Keylika's leadership team. 

Despite the pair's impressive track record academically and in the STEM world, Frederik and Buddha bootstrapped Keylika from the start. They nurtured the company during evenings and weekends while holding down their day jobs. Facing an extreme lack of resources, and showing typical Bay Area tenacity, Buddha even created an at-home lab in his bedroom to overcome their lack of access to scientific facilities. This ambitious spirit helped Keylika secure a space in the Y Combinator S22 cohort and demonstrates the company's resourcefulness and commitment to innovation. 

Keylika's technology bridges the gap between the two extremes of iron deficiency treatment and has the ability to make transdermal administration the leading treatment path for IDA patients. The founders are focused on reaching clinical trials and attracting more investment opportunities to ensure they can bring their medical discoveries to the world. 


"We want to transform the systemic drug delivery space by creating products that overcome traditional constraints like molecular size and dosage," Frederik says. "Our team envisions a future where iron deficiency anemia patients have seamless treatment plans that are supported by Keylika's cutting-edge biotechnology."

"Keylika is addressing the underserved population of iron deficiency anemia, but our company's overarching mission is to democratize safe, effective, and affordable treatments that represent the future of medicine across therapeutic areas, and at point-of-care," Buddha adds.

Featured image sourced from Shutterstock

This post was authored by an external contributor and does not represent Benzinga’s opinions and has not been edited for content. The information contained above is provided for informational and educational purposes only, and nothing contained herein should be construed as investment advice. Benzinga does not make any recommendation to buy or sell any security or any representation about the financial condition of any company. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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