Allergan hopes to find a new treatment option for patients with retinal conditions including Retinitis Pigmentosa following the acquisition of RetroSense Therapeutics for US$60m plus milestone payments. Retrosense is a private biotechnology company focused on novel gene therapy approaches to restore vision in patients suffering from blindness.
“The acquisition of RetroSense and its RST-001 program builds on Allergan’s deep commitment to eye care, and our focus on investing in game-changing innovation for retinal conditions, including Retinitis Pigmentosa, where patients desperately need treatment options,” said Brent Saunders, CEO and President of Allergan.
Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) is a group of rare, inherited genetic disorders characterised by progressive peripheral vision loss and night vision difficulties followed by eventual central vision loss and blindness in many cases. According to Allergan, 14 to 33 per 100,000 people worldwide have the disorder.
First-in-class Gene Therapy
RST-001 is first-in-class gene therapy application of optogenetics, a therapeutic approach that confers light sensitivity to cells that were not previously, or natively, light sensitive. By applying optogenetics to retinas in which rod and cone photoreceptors have degenerated, the technology introduces additional light sensitivity to the retina. In 2014, RST-001 received an Orphan Drug Designation by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of Retinitis Pigmentosa. In August 2015, RetroSense’s Investigational New Drug (IND) application for RST-001 received clearance from the US FDA. In March 2016, RetroSense initiated a Phase I/IIa clinical trial to evaluate the safety of RST-001 in patients being dosed, and in August 2016,
the low dose cohort of patients had been safely dosed.
The RST-001 program and its optogenetic gene therapy approach could be a real breakthrough in the treatment of unmet needs across a host of retinal conditions, including RP
“The RST-001 program and its optogenetic gene therapy approach could be a real breakthrough in the treatment of unmet needs across a host of retinal conditions, including RP,” said David Nicholson, Chief Research and Development Officer, Allergan. “The team at Allergan is excited by the prospect of advancing an entirely new approach in the treatment of retinal diseases, and this technology is highly complementary to our ongoing development programs in this critical treatment area.”
Expanding Ophthalmic Business
Ophthalmic treatments make up a significant part of Allergan’s business with $636 million in revenues during the second quarter, an increase of 10 per cent over the same quarter a year earlier. The bulk of its established business is in eye drops to relieve conditions such as dry eye and glaucoma.
Allergan has recently committed to a series of deals that will expand its foothold in ophthalmics. In August 2016, it bought ForSight Vision5 for $95 million up front and a launch milestone for its clinical-stage periocular ring that’s designed to continuously release the drug bimatoprost over several months to lower eye pressure in glaucoma and ocular hypertensive patients.
In 2015, Allergan bought glaucoma microshunt company AqueSys for $300 million up front plus milestones and dry eye device startup Oculeve for $125 million plus milestones.