Orasis Pharmaceuticals snags $30M to see its presbyopia treatment through to PhIII
Orasis Pharmaceuticals is one of several biotechs developing miotic-based eye drops as a potential alternative to reading glasses — one drop, and no more squinting at text messages. With the help of a $30 million Series C, the Israel-based company has its sights set on Phase III.
“Reading glasses are inconvenient, they are not aesthetically pleasing for many people, and then finally, they are also one of the very first signs of aging,” said CEO Elad Kedar, who joined Orasis in 2015 shortly after the company was founded.
The presbyopia treatment works through pupil modulation — constricting the pupil to create a “pinhole effect” and increase depth of field, improving near vision. The challenge is finding the “sweet spot,” Kedar said. Constrict the pupil too far, and patients could experience nearsightedness.
Orasis will use Series C funding to push its lead candidate, CSF-1, into Phase III. Two identical trials will be conducted in the US with about 300 participants each, Kedar said, adding that it’s a ‘matter of weeks” before testing begins. The company will evaluate the drug for efficacy, safety and comfort.
Orasis met its primary endpoint in a Phase IIb study of CSF-1 with about 160 participants. The drug showed three-line improvement in participants’ ability to read an ETDRS chart, a standard eye chart used by ophthalmologists, Kedar said.
But the biotech isn’t alone in the race for a miotic-based eye drop. AbbVie is currently in Phase III with its candidate, presbysol, which it inherited in the Allergan buyout. PRX-100, in development by Presbyopia Therapies, is expected to enter Phase III this year, according to Modern Optometry. And in a proof-of-concept study, 78% of patients given OSRX Pharmaceuticals’ Eye Focus maintained 20/40 vision for 8 hours.
“There is a lot of expectation for eye drops for presbyopia to become very strong elements within the tools that eye care professionals can finally provide their patients,” Kedar said.
In addition to conducting its Phase III study, Orasis will use the Series C to help prepare for a commercial launch.
“I mean, we’re not trying to eliminate reading glasses from the world. There are some people that would like to use the drop every day when they go to work, and some people may want to use it when they go Friday night to the restaurant and they don’t want to use the reading glasses … ” Kedar said. “So, this is really … what we are going to be able to offer so many people in the US and globally.”
The financing round was led by Bluestem Capital and Visionary Ventures, and joined by returning investors including Sequoia Capital, SBI (Japan) Innovation Fund, Maverick Ventures Israel and LifeSci Venture Partners.