Syncona dives deep into dry AMD R&D, upping Gyroscope bet to $100M
The explosion of gene therapies in the clinic promises to transform the treatment of eye diseases. And Syncona thinks one of their portfolio companies may have found the answer to dry AMD.
The life sciences investment group sunk an additional $57.7 million in Series B funding into the retinal gene therapy group Gyroscope Therapeutics, bringing their total investment to just under $100 million. Syncona maintains an 80% stake in the UK-based outfit. An additional $2.9 million will be provided by Cambridge Innovation Capital.
A host of gene therapies have been released or are in development for rare eye disorders – most prominently Spark’s costly Luxturna, the first gene therapy for inherited blindness. But no effective treatment exists for dry, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) — the most common cause of blindness in the industrial world. AMD affects 170 million people globally, 85-90% of whom have the dry type.
The new dollars will allow Gyroscope to complete its Phase I/II study of its GT005 therapy, which works by injecting a virus-embedded solution beneath the retina to deliver a gene sequence coding a protein that prevents “complement” cells from attacking healthy retinal cells. The money will also allow it to start Phase II and expand its surgical platform to ensure safe delivery of the gene to the retina.
In February, Gyroscope dosed its first patient, an 80-year-old Oxford woman, with the therapy.
Two forms of AMD exist: “dry” and “wet.” Several drugs for the wet type exist and more are under development, but because the dry form remains untreatable by conventional means, it presents a major opportunity for developers. A July report from market intelligence firm Infiniti Research estimates that “huge unmet medical need” for dry-AMD will drive the market by 8% CAGR.
The market’s first big dry-AMD hope, Roche’s lampalizumab was dropped after failing both Phase III trials in 2017. Gyroscope is competing against J&J, Parisian biotech Biophytis and Kentucky-based biotech Apellis, among others, to be the first to introduce a dry–AMD therapy. Researchers at NIH and in China are also testing stem-cell-based models, while in July the bioelectronics company Pixium Vision announced success in the 12-month feasibility study for their retinal implant.
Gyroscope acquired US-based device maker Orbital Biomedic in April. It is run by former Genentech executive Khurem Farooq, who oversaw commercial activities for the wet-AMD drug Lucentis and pre-launch work for Roche’s lampalizumab.