ERCO Pharma was founded to commercialize the groundbreaking work of Lars Norlén and his research team at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden.

In collaboration with Erik Lindahl’s lab, and the Swedish e-Science Research Center, at the Science for Life Laboratory facilities in Stockholm, we have elucidated the basic molecular structure and function of the human skin’s permeability barrier using cryo-electron microscopy (technology awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2017) and molecular dynamics simulations (technology awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2013).

This constitutes the foundation for new methods for development of drugs and improved pharmaceutical formulations, which can be administered through the skin in a better way.

Based on the findings, ERCO Pharma has developed a proprietary (patent pending) and relevant computer model of human skin, that enables screening of novel drug candidates and potential membrane permeability enhancers in silico.

Advantages of transdermal drug delivery

  • Avoids first-pass metabolism, thereby a lower amount of drug is needed.
  • Non-invasive and pain-free self-administration by patient.
  • Possibly improved bioavailability.
  • Pharmacokinetic profile of the drug is more uniform with fewer peaks and troughs.
  • Maintains a constant drug concentration over long periods of time.
  • Eliminates pain, discomfort, risk of infection and poor compliance which usually are associated with needle injections.

Challenges of transdermal drug delivery

Transdermal drug delivery is an attractive route across the skin which enables a systemic effect of drugs, but there are obstacles:

  • The major difficulty with transdermal drug delivery is that the outermost layer of the skin, the stratum corneum, constitutes a strong barrier making it difficult for permeants to cross the skin at clinically relevant rates.
  • There are currently only ~20 drugs approved for transdermal delivery. Only two new drugs have been approved by the FDA between 2000 and 2014.
  • No active technology, such as microneedles, electroporation and iontophoresis, has had any commercial success during the last 20 years.