– ICELAND, Reykjavik – Oculis announced today the close of a Series A financing round, led by Brunnur Ventures and Silfurberg. The new capital will support continued development of the company’s patented solubilizing nanoparticle (SNP) drug delivery platform and the company’s drug candidates, including the first topical eye-drops for treatment of diabetic macular edema.
Oculis’ SNP platform technology is specifically designed to solve the limitations of available eye-drop technologies. The SNP technology is based on the combined efforts of Oculis’ founders, Dr. Thorsteinn Loftsson, a leading scientist in the field of cyclodextrin based drug delivery and Dr. Einar Stefansson, a leading ophthalmologist in the field of diabetic eye disease. Oculis’ founders have over a course of 20 years made step-by-step improvements on eye-drop technologies with the invention of the solubilizing nanoparticles being a major breakthrough.
The SNP technology allows for treatment of retinal diseases with topically administered eye-drops, as has been demonstrated in four different clinical trials. The SNP technology substantially enhances solubility of lipophilic drugs and provides sustained release over several hours compared to only a few minutes with conventional eye-drop technologies. The SNP technology has the potential to significantly improve eye-drops, not only by allowing retinal delivery, but also for anterior segment use.
To date, SNP containing various different drugs have been developed and tested, including SNP containing drugs for treatment of diseases in both the posterior and the anterior segment of the eye, such as steroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, anti-VEGF drugs, angiotensin II receptor antagonists, carbonic anhydrase inhibitors and peptides.
Oculis is looking to get DexNP, the company’s most advanced drug candidate, approved as a treatment for Diabetic Macular Edema (DME) in the USA and Europe. Approved DME drugs are invasive, either intravitreal injections or implants, with large unmet medical need for non-invasive DME treatment options. Today, only a small part of the estimated 25 million global DME patients are receiving drug treatment demonstrating the large unmet medical need. Two phase II trials conducted in Japan have demonstrated DexNP to be safe and effective as a treatment for DME, providing similar improvement in vision and central macular thickness (CMT) as approved invasive treatments. DexNP has substantial potential for expansion into other indications, including as a once a day post-operative anti-inflammatory treatment, as a treatment for uveitis and as a complementary treatment for wet-AMD.
Oculis has other promising product candidates under development in key ophthalmic indications, including wet-AMD, glaucoma, dry-eyes and diabetic retinopathy.
“We are delighted to receive this support from Brunnur Ventures, Silfurberg and their co-investors to progress our development of DexNP. The investment will also allow us to further advance the SNP drug delivery platform and move forward other pipeline drug candidates in key ophthalmic indications.” said Páll Ragnar Jóhannesson, CEO of Oculis. “In addition to providing financial resources, these experienced investors bring Oculis a wealth of operational and industry expertise. The investment is yet another recognition for the outstanding research work of Dr. Loftsson and Dr. Stefansson”.
“Our investment to support the development of Oculis is based on Oculis’ strong scientific research, combined with a great market potential for the company’s drug candidates. The option of drug treatment of DME with self-administered eye-drops, rather than having the only option of surgically injecting drugs into the eye, would by a major advantage in the global battle with this common and severe diabetes complication.” commented Arni Blöndal of Brunnur Ventures. “We look forward to working with Oculis to translate its research into important new medicines.”
In connection with the financing, Árni Blöndal of Brunnur Ventures and Stefan Jökull Sveinsson, former Global head of R&D at Actavis will join the Board. Other directors include Joseph Markoff, former Global Director for Ophthalmology at Merck & Company and director at Wills Eye, James D. Pipkin, VP of New Product Development at Ligand Pharmaceutical, K. George Mooney, former VP of Exploratory Portfolio Development at Pfizer, and Oculis’ founders Dr. Loftsson and Dr. Stefansson, who serves as Chairman of the Board.
Oculis is a clinical-stage, privately held, pharmaceutical development company focusing on ophthalmic drugs and novel drug delivery to the eye. Oculis has developed the solubilizing nanoparticle (SNP) drug delivery platform consisting of a novel technique to facilitate drug absorption to both anterior and posterior parts of the eye. The SNP platform provides sustained release over several hours and allows for greatly increased solubility of lipophilic drugs. Among the key advantages of the SNP platform is a drug delivery system where diseases of the posterior part of the eye can be treated with a simple topical application, i.e. an eye drop.
About Brunnur VC
Brunnur Ventures is a $30m venture capital fund focused on Icelandic start-up companies, emphasizing innovation and growth, combined with scalable business models and extraordinary entrepreneurial talent.
The Fund is managed by SA Framtak GP together with Landsbref hf.
Silfurberg ehf. is the private investment company of Mr. Fridrik Steinn Kristjánsson. Mr. Kristjánsson is the founder of Invent Farma, a vertically integrated company that develops, produces and markets active substances and generic medicinal products. Previously Mr. Kristjánsson was founder and Managing Partner of Icelandic Omega Farma between 1990 and 2002.
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