Eyevensys, a developer of a new process for non-viral gene therapy using electrotransfer that enables prolonged production of therapeutic proteins for the treatment of ocular disease, today announces an equity investment by the Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund (BIVF). It also announces that Dr Michel Pairet, Boehringer Ingelheim's head of non-clinical research and development, has been appointed to its board of directors.
This equity investment by BIVF marks the start of Eyevensys' next round of funding, which is planned to take place before the end of the second quarter of 2013 and aims to fund the business through to completion of Phase IIa clinical trials. The Eyevensys investment is BIVF's sixth since its launch in 2010 and its first investment in a French company. BIVF had previously taken a stake in Inserm Transfert Initiative, an investment company specializing in seed capital for start-ups coming out of academic research and a past investor in Eyevensys.
The company's past investors (Innobio, managed by CDC Entreprises, Inserm Transfert Initiative and CapDecisif Management) also intend to participate in this second round of funding. Eyevensys raised EUR 1.6 million from its first round of funding in January 2012.
“Boehringer Ingelheim Venture Fund's equity investment brings us credibility, further raises our profile and gives us access to their wealth of experience in pharmaceutical and biotechnology R&D. This sends a strong signal to our target market,” said Dr Ivan Cohen-Tanugi, chairman of Eyevensys. “Dr Michel Pairet is well known in our industry. His experience, combined with the experience of the BIVF team, will undoubtedly help us to strengthen our development. We plan to complete a new round of funding between now and June. Discussions are already underway with potential new investors.”
The aim of this second round is to allow the company to finalize its preclinical trials, proceed to clinical trials within 18 months and complete Phase IIa. Eyevensys is currently focusing on two ophthalmological indications with significant unmet medical needs. These are: uveitis, a rare disease, and age-related macular degeneration, a pathology which occurs more frequently than uveitis and is becoming more prevalent as a result of population aging.
Eyevensys is the only company to have reached this advanced stage of investigation of novel treatment approaches for non-viral gene therapy. The technology developed by Eyevensys involves the electrotransfer of plasmids into the ciliary muscle resulting in a stable, sustained expression of therapeutic proteins. This new therapeutic 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. Alongside higher efficacy it is hoped that the reduced doses of medication and proteins could also reduce side-effects. The first preclinical results in animal models have shown the expression of therapeutic proteins for up to nine months.
“Eyevensys' novel approach, which targets pathologies where few therapies are available and offers potential advantages in terms of effectiveness, administration and tolerability, makes it a perfect fit with the Boehringer Ingelheim fund's criteria for investment,” explains Dr Michel Pairet, head of non-clinical research and development at Boehringer Ingelheim. “In the future, medicine will increasingly rely on a combination of technologies, as we see here with the combination of gene therapy with a medical device.”
Michel Pairet has been with Boehringer Ingelheim since 1992. Before heading up the German company’s worldwide non-clinical research and development division, he was responsible for its worldwide research, and its corporate investment fund. Michel Pairet is a doctor of veterinary medicine and has a PhD in physiology and pharmacology.