This article was originally published in Start Up
Ophthotech is creating drugs to be used in combination with anti-VEGF therapies for wet AMD. It is developing inhibitors of platelet-derived growth factor and the a5b1 integrin, as well as an anti-C5 receptor aptamer that could eventually be a therapy for both wet and dry forms of age-related macular degeneration.
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Money will finance 1,900-patient, 200-site Phase III trial for wet AMD drug Fovista, expected to work in concert with anti-VEGF therapies such as Lucentis to restore eye function. The transaction is just the latest ophthalmology financing involving Novo AS, SV Life Sciences and executives once with Eyetech.
Ophthalmology has long been a bright spot for venture investors given the potential market size, health care burden, and high unmet medical need associated with many eye diseases. Based on a recent analysis by Start-Up magazine, there is no sign that trend is diminishing. Using Elsevier's Strategic Transactions database, Start-Up found that private backers have poured nearly $1.8 billion into 58 ophthalmology start-ups since 1999, with the money split nearly 50/50 in terms of device and drug investments. This trend is likely to accelerate as a number of new acquirers emerge to play in what was once a niche area.
Acucela is developing oral compounds that can possibly slow or stop vision loss caused by dry age-related macular degeneration. Its lead candidate is a small-molecule inhibitor of an enzyme called RPE65, known to be involved in the build-up of A2E, a toxic vitamin A by-product that is implicated in AMD.