The group's novel system uses a helium gas jet to push powdered drugs through the skin at three times the speed of sound. Dr Paul Drayson, chairman, said: "It's completely painless because it doesn't distend the tissues. All you feel is the slight pressure of the gas on your skin. There is no bruising or bleeding."
One of the key uses for the system will be drugs for male impotence. "This is obviously a lot kinder than an injection", pointed out Dr Drayson. The company said the technology was also targeted at the dental market, treating children and for conditions like diabetes where injections are frequent. The group is also working on applications for flu and hepatitis vaccines.
Powderject which published its pathfinder prospectus yesterday, already has several collaborative deals with pharmaceutical companies keen to use its technology to improve the delivery of their drugs.
The group's most advanced product is part of an alliance with UK biotech group Chiroscience. Both are developing a needle-less delivery system for Chiroscience's local anaesthetic which Powderject hopes to launch by 2000. Chiroscience is funding all the research costs and will share any sales equally with Powderject.
Powderject, which was founded in 1993 to commercialise research carried out at Oxford University, expects to list on the main market in June, valued at around pounds 110m. It is raising pounds 35m of new money to fund further research and buy out a minority stake in a US gene vaccine company.
Management currently own 60 per cent of the company, and this will be diluted to around 40 per cent after the flotation. Dr Drayson said none of the directors was selling shares and their options were locked in for two years. He said the group expected to spend considerably more on research after the flotation.