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Sirion Biotech signs 2-year pact with Acucela to establish optimized AAV vectors for clinical applications in ocular gene therapy

Munich, Germany
Wednesday, January 10, 2018, 15:10 Hrs  [IST]

Sirion Biotech GmbH (Sirion), a world leader in virus based technology innovation and gene delivery expert providing custom services to commercial partners worldwide, has signed a two year development agreement with Acucela Inc. (Acucela), a clinical-stage ophthalmology company and wholly-owned subsidiary of Kubota Pharmaceutical Holdings Co., Ltd., to establish optimized AAV vectors for clinical applications in ocular gene therapy. With this cooperative effort, Acucela bolsters its move into the fast growing gene therapy market to find a genetic cure for retinitis pigmentosa (RP). Key terms of the agreement include milestone payments to Sirion, with additional royalties to be paid on net sales from resulting products or therapies.

RP is the most common form of inherited retinal degeneration. Onset is usually in childhood and progresses to complete blindness by around age 40. It is estimated that approximately 1 in 4000 people are affected in their lifetime, and approximately 1.5 million people worldwide are affected by the disease. RP describes a family of slowly progressing diseases that are caused by a variety of autosomal dominant, autosomal recessive and x-linked mutations that lead to photoreceptor degeneration. It is a complex indication with over 100 pathogenic mutations identified. To date, no pharmacological treatment is available.

Recombinant adeno associated virus (rAAV) vectors are considered the best and most promising gene delivery system for therapeutic applications and have been shown in preclinical experiments to successfully deliver human rhodopsin (hRho) to the retina. Acucela, together with Sirion and an academic partner consortium, aims to develop the next generation of rAAV vectors. The goal is to secure new and modified AAV capsids that will ensure that the therapeutic viral particles exhibit a safe product profile with improved specificity for therapeutic protein delivery, over wild type vectors, that is needed to effectively restore light sensitivity to patients.

Sirion relies on 10 years of experience in viral vector engineering and leverages close ties to leading academics in Europe that will play a pivotal role in this project. World renowned experts in AAV biology, Prof. Grimm from the Unversitätsklinikum Heidelberg and Prof. Büning of the Medizinische Hochschule Hannover as well as PD Dr. Michalakis from the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München will contribute their individual expertise to this programme.

"The academic acumen of our partners, together with our strong viral vector specialization and experience will empower our client to enter clinical trials with an efficient, safe and scalable product. For us it is the chance to participate in a fundamental step for gene therapies that can help millions of patients worldwide win back their eyesight. This is what we started Sirion Biotech for," said Dr. Christian Thirion, founder and chief executive officer of the company.

Additionally, Dr. Ryo Kubota, MD, PhD, chairman, president and chief excuetive officer of Acucela stated, "We are pleased to advance our optogenetic genetherapy programme in partnership with Sirion Biotech to bring a new therapeutic approach to RP patients suffering from this devastating disease."


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