Azura Ophthalmics gets a $20M boost for its R&D work on eye diseases
Three years after closing a $16 million Series B, the same group of investors are back to give Azura Ophthalmics a $20 million boost.
That brings the Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel-based biotech’s total fundraise to $38 million, and should pave the way for a registration study of its lead candidate in Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) and related eye diseases, CEO Marc Gleeson told Endpoints News.
The topical candidate, dubbed AZR-MD-001, is designed to address abnormal hyperkeratinization, or the build-up and shedding of proteins at the opening of or within the Meibomian gland. When Meibomian glands become dysfunctional, rapid evaporation of the tear film can occur, leading to dry eye disease.
“If successful, we think we will have a fairly dramatic impact on the key reason why people end up with dry eye disease,” Gleeson said. The candidate would be applied to the lower eyelid before bedtime.
The approach has been used for decades in dermatology. While studying MGD, Azura’s founders “realized that there was this link between the functionality of Meibomian glands and sebaceous glands” in the skin, Gleeson explained. The candidate is now at the threshold of a registration study in MGD, and is also being tested in other indications such as contact lens intolerance.
“The current options we have to treat patients with Meibomian gland dysfunction focus primarily on relieving obstruction and have not focused on the role of keratin within meibum. There are millions of patients with ocular surface disease and MGD worldwide; we need better treatments to help our symptomatic patients,” Preeya Gupta, clinical medical director of Duke Eye Center at Page Road and associate professor of ophthalmology at Duke University Eye Center, said in a statement.
Azura expects the first registration study in MGD to take place in Australia and New Zealand, yielding results in 2021 or early 2022. That study will be followed by a second registration trial, Gleeson said. He expects a full read-out on Phase II data in Q1 of next year.
The 4-year-old biotech has several other candidates in the pipeline, including ones for blepharitis and aqueous deficient dry eye.
Azura’s recent financing was led by OrbiMed, TPG Biotech, Brandon Capital’s Medical Research Commercialization Fund, and Ganot Capital.
“We’re very positive, and we look forward to getting on with the registration studies and moving the program forward,” Gleeson said.