Battered and out of options, Histogenics turns to eye drug developer Ocugen for reverse merger

Microcap company Histogenics has managed to stir up a final rally around its stock before it’s relegated to the biotech history books.

Malvern, PA-based Ocugen, a developer of gene therapies and other biologics for rare eye diseases, has struck a reverse merger deal with the struggling Histogenics. Its shares $HSGX rose as much as 144% — though that translates to pennies in the Histogenics’ world.

Shankar Musunuri

Founded by Pfizer vet Shankar Musunuri and University of Colorado professor Uday Kompella, Ocugen derives its drugs from two platforms licensed from Harvard’s Schepens Eye Research Institute of Massachusetts Eye and Ear. One formulates therapies that they call a nanoemulsion, which is supposedly more durable and effective than typical eye drops; the other aims to deliver nuclear hormone receptor genes into the retina.

Here’s rundown of their pipeline, which touches on both Phase III and preclinical with a void in between:

  • OCU300, an orphan drug candidate for ocular graft versus host disease
  • OCU310 for dry eye disease
  • OCU400, a gene augmentation therapy for patients with inherited retinal diseases caused by mutations in the NR2E3 gene (received orphan drug designation from the FDA)

“We’ve also made pre-clinical progress toward our retinal disease programs which includes novel biologic therapies for wet, age-related macular degeneration, diabetic macular edema and diabetic retinopathy, as well as for retinitis pigmentosa,” Musunuri, the CEO, added.

Uday Kompella

Before they go, Histogenics execs will huddle and see if they can squeeze any value out of NeoCart, its regenerative treatment for knee cartilage. The program was dropped last December after the FDA demanded to see more data before they would accept a BLA for review.

Histogenics shareholders will now collectively hold 10% of the combined company, which will consist solely of Ocugen’s lean team.

The last financing round that Ocugen disclosed was a $7.5 million Series B closed in 2017, adding to $6 million in Series A cash.

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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