RetroSense Raises $6M To Develop Retinitis Pigmentosa Drug

ANN ARBOR — The privately held biopharmaceutical company RetroSense Therapeutics said Thursday it had raised $6 million in Series A financing to investigate the use of gene therapy and optogenetics to restore vision loss.

The company says the proceeds should enable completion of preclinical studies needed to support an Investigational New Drug filing with the federal Food and Drug Administration for RST-001, the company’s proposed treatment for retinitis pigmentosa.

The investment group includes Nerveda LLC, a life science seed fund in San Diego, Calif.; Blue Water Angels, a Midland private investor group; SDL Ventures, a venture capital firm in Mountain View, Calif.; Tech Coast Angels, a private investor network in southern California; and the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

“We believe this financing round should provide us with sufficient capital resources to support our IND filing in early 2015 for our lead product, RST-001,” said Sean Ainsworth, CEO of RetroSense Therapeutics. “We are focused on developing novel treatment options for patients with severe vision loss due to retinitis pigmentosa and completion of our preclinical studies will be the next step towards filing an IND and initiating clinical trials.”

Retinitis pigmentosa is a genetic condition which leads to the progressive degeneration of rod and cone photoreceptors (cells found in the retina of the eye that sense light). Loss of these cells results in severe vision loss and blindness.

Optogenetics refers broadly to means of conferring light sensitivity to cells that were not previously light sensitive. By applying optogenetics to retinas in which the rod and cone photoreceptors have degenerated, RetroSense is conferring new light sensitivity to the retina, with the expectation of improved or restored vision.

RST-001 is expected to have application to all forms of retinitis pigmentosa, independent of causative gene or mutation.

Recently designated with Orphan Drug Status, RST-001 is being developed as a first-in-class gene therapy application of optogenetics designed to restore vision to those affected by retinal degenerative conditions.

RetroSense is developing therapies to restore vision in patients suffering from blindness due to retinitis pigmentosa and advanced dry age-related macular degeneration (advanced dry-AMD). There are currently no FDA approved drugs to improve or restore vision in patients with these retinal degenerative conditions.

The company’s approach to using optogenetics in vision restoration is based on pioneering, proprietary research conducted at Wayne State University and Massachusetts General Hospital.

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