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Boehringer backs gene therapy firm Eyevensys

Invests in French eye disease specialist

Boehringer Ingelheim headquarters 

Boehringer Ingelheim has announced an equity investment in French gene therapy firm Eyevensys, which specialises in the treatment of eye diseases.

The Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund (BIVF) - set up in 2010 - is making an undisclosed investment in the Paris-based firm, while the pharma company's head of non-clinical research and development, Dr Michel Pairet, is joining Eyevensys' board of directors.

Boehringer's foray into the gene therapy sector comes shortly after Novartis stumped up a $41m investment in GenSight Biologics, another Paris-based gene therapy specialist specialising in ocular delivery.

Eyevensys is building a platform on the concept of using non-viral methods of delivering genetic material to the eye, specifically using elecrotransfer of plasmid DNA into the ciliary muscle of the eye using a delivery device. 

The company said it will use the latest investment round to advance product candidates through preclinical development and into the clinic. It is focusing on two indications - uveitis and age-related macular degeneration - and expects to start testing its approach in patients within 18 months. 

Eyevensys was set up in 2009 and raised €1.6m in its first financing round in early 2012. The target of the next fundraising is around €5m, with existing backers Innobio, Inserm Transfert and CapDecisif Management also expected to contribute.

Eyevensys said its approach "will be less invasive than current therapies, as the frequency of injections can be greatly reduced from fortnightly or monthly to every six months potentially improving the quality of life of patients".

At the moment, the treatment for AMD relies on regular intraocular injections of drugs such as Novartis' Lucentis (ranibizumab) and Bayer's Eylea (aflibercept).

In contrast, GenSight Biologics is relying on the use of an adeno-associated virus (AAV) vector for gene transfer into the eye, and is focusing on Leber's hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON) and retinitis pigmentosa, both of which are rare ocular diseases.

15th April 2013

From: Research

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