RetroSense Raises $6M In Over-Subscribed Funding Round

ANN ARBOR — RetroSense Therapeutics, a privately held, clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company, announced that it has secured $6 million in a Series B financing to further investigate the use of gene therapy and optogenetics to restore vision.

The investment syndicate includes existing investors, including Midland-based BlueWater Angels, and new investors RBV Capital, ExSight Capital, and Santen Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.

Earlier in 2015, RetroSense Therapeutics closed a $7 million Series A financing, bringing total Series A and Series B investment to $13 million.

The company said the proceeds should enable completion of the company’s recently initiated Phase I and Phase II clinical study for its drug candidate, RST-001 for the treatment of retinitis pigmentosa. The company added that proceeds will also be used to support the further development of a second promising gene therapy candidate. Recruitment for the RST-001 Phase I/II clinical study is under way at Retina Foundation of the Southwest in Dallas, Texas.

“The follow-on participation from Series A investors, combined with new institutional investors in the Series B financing, demonstrates the great enthusiasm for RetroSense Therapeutics’ promise in ocular gene therapy,” said Sean Ainsworth, CEO of RetroSense Therapeutics. “This syndicate of investors is tremendously strong in ophthalmology and optogenetics. Their financing and support will enable us to move forward more quickly, with broader reach.”

In connection with this investment, Dmitry Kuzmin, Ph.D., of RBV Capital, joined the company’s board of directors. Kuzmin brings direct experience in and knowledge of optogenetics in neurobiology through research conducted at Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and University College of London. RBV Capital is a Moscow, Russia-based life sciences venture capital fund established
in 2014.

Santen Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. and ExSight Capital, bring direct expertise in ophthalmology. Osaka, Japan-based Santen, as a specialized pharmaceutical company primarily engaged in the ophthalmic field, has established the leading position in Japan’s prescription ophthalmic market and has expanded into the global market. ExSight Capital is a New York city venture capital firm that
specializes in early-stage impact investments in innovative ophthalmic diagnostic and treatment solutions, whose partners are prominent ophthalmologists.

The FDA granted Orphan Drug Designation to RST-001 in 2014 and authorized first-in-human clinical trials for the product in 2015. Recruitment for the Phase I/II clinical study (NCT02556736) is currently underway. RST-001 is expected to have application to all forms of Retinitis Pigmentosa, independent of an individual’s
causative gene or mutation. 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.

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.

RetroSense is developing gene therapies designed to restore vision in patients suffering from blindness due to retinitis pigmentosa (RP) 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.

RetroSense’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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