The development of a vision-saving treatment for people with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is getting a major boost thanks to the formation of the French biotech SparingVision to move it into a clinical trial and out to the international marketplace.
A spin-off of the Institut de la Vision, SparingVision was established to clinically develop and commercialize a protein known as rod-derived cone-viability factor (RdCVF). The emerging therapy performed well in several previous lab studies funded by the Foundation Fighting Blindness. SparingVision’s goal is to launch a clinical trial for the protein in 2019.
The Foundation Fighting Blindness Clinical Research Institute (FFB-CRI), Bpifrance — Biotechnology Acceleration Fund and Innovative Biotherapies and Rare Diseases Funds created by the French national program (BPI), and the Fondation Voir et Entendre (FVE) have announced a total of €15.5 million in tranche funding for the development of RdCVF. FFB-CRI and BPI are each investing €7 million with FVE providing €1.5 million.
SparingVision also received a €300,000 award known as the Honor Prize from the French Ministry of Research. The award is given to new, innovative companies in France competing in a national contest.
RdCVF is a naturally occurring protein in the retina identified by SparingVision co-founders José Sahel, MD, and Thierry Léveillard, PhD, at the Institut de la Vision. The scientists demonstrated in laboratory studies that RdCVF prevented or slowed the degeneration of cones, the cells in the retina that provide central and color vision and enable people to read, drive, and recognize faces. RdCVF is naturally secreted by rods, the retinal cells that provide night and peripheral vision.
RP is a genetic condition affecting about two million people worldwide. The retinal disease is usually diagnosed in childhood, progressively leading to legal or total blindness in adulthood. RP initially affects rods. The progressive loss of rods leads to loss of cones. There are currently no therapies for RP.
“Saving retinal cone cells is critical for preserving vision for people with genetic retinal diseases,” says Dr. Sahel.
“After several years of investigation, we understand the mechanism of action for RdCVF and have demonstrated its strong efficacy in several lab studies,” says Dr. Léveillard.
“SparingVision’s emerging therapy has the potential to save the vision of millions. I am delighted by our partners’ investment to get RdCVF out to the people who desperately need it,” says Florence Allouche Ghrenassia, PharmD, president at SparingVision. She brings 16 years of experience at Assistance Publique Hôopitaux de Paris as TTO Director in advancing innovative early stage therapies into the clinic to her new role.
FFB-CRI provided much of the earlier research funding to develop RdCVF. “We have been excited about this therapy’s potential for saving vision and therefore committed significant resources to boost its development,” says Patricia Zilliox, PhD, FFB-CRI’s chief drug development officer. “The establishment of SparingVision and the investment by our partners are essential to getting the treatment into the marketplace. We are pleased to be a part of this translational process.”