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Ophthotech in-licenses pair of aptamers
PRINCETON, N.J.—In a pair of in-licensing deals with Archemix Corp. and OSI Pharmaceuticals, Ophthotech Corp. recently acquired rights to aptamer compounds for the treatment of macular degeneration. Ophthotech is a new company formed by former executive of Eyetech, which OSI Pharmaceuticals acquired in late 2005.
With Archemix Corp.—a well-known aptamer pioneer—the company signed an exclusive, worldwide licensing agreement for all ophthalmic uses of Archemix's proprietary aptamers targeting the C5 component of the complement cascade in both the wet and dry forms of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Archemix will focus its on-going aptamer program on cardiovascular and hematological diseases and cancer. Terms of the agreements between the two private companies were not disclosed.
"Of principal importance," says Dr. Samir Patel, president and CEO of Ophthotech, "is that these developments indicate that angiogenesis and the dry form of AMD have come a long way over the past five years. We believe the in-licensing strongly addresses dry AMD which is the form that accounts for up to 90 percent of all cases of the disease and for which no major therapy exists today." Dr. Patel notes that the disease affects approximately eight million people in the United States and a like number in Europe.
The second agreement is with OSI Pharmaceuticals which, subsequent to merging with Eyetech, Inc., decided to divest its anti-platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) aptamer program. At roughly the same time, Dr. Patel and others, who now form the Ophthotech management team, left Eyetech to establish the new company.
Under the terms of the agreement, OSI will transfer to Ophthotech all rights in the PDGF aptamer program, including rights to its preclinical compound E10030, in exchange for an up-front cash payment, an equity interest in Ophthotech and potential future milestones and royalties. Again, terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
In preclinical studies, E10030 has shown the potential to regress neovascularization when used in combination with a vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) inhibitor. Anti-VEGF agents alone have shown the ability to slow or halt, but not to regress the damage done by AMD. "We are excited to develop this Phase-I-ready anti-PDGF aptamer for AMD," Dr. Patel says. "Studies suggest that this compound, in combination with anti-VEGF agents, may cause regression of abnormal blood vessels in AMD. This is not observed with anti-VEGF therapy alone."
Dr. Patel adds, "As we know, based on improved understanding of the disease process, inflammation plays an important role in AMD as well as in coronary heart disease and elsewhere. In wet AMD, for example, histological examination reveals tissue packed with inflammation cells. In addition, wet AMD patients have inflammation biomarkers suggesting a complement-mediated mechanism. "We believe that the anti-C5 aptamer blockade represents a potential breakthrough therapy for dry and wet AMD."
With the $36 million of financing raised in the initial round of funding, Ophthotech expects to have sufficient resources to execute its strategy. Participants in the private round include SV Life Sciences, HBM BioVentures and Novo A/S.
Former members of the Eyetech management team who have joined Dr. Patel are Henry Simon (now with lead investor SV Life Sciences and former Chairman of the Board of Eyetech), and Dr. David R. Guyer, (former CEO and co-founder of Eyetech, who will also serve as Ophthotech's Chairman of the Board).