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Series A round nets KalVista $13.2 million
SOUTHAMPTON, England—KalVista Pharmaceuticals, a new Southampton, United Kingdom-based ophthalmology company, has closed a Series A financing round that netted the company £8 million (approximately $13.2 million) from leading investors Novo A/S and SV Life Sciences. KalVista is focused on developing new treatments for diabetic macular edema (DME), which represents a leading cause of vision loss in adults in developed countries.
"I am delighted that KalVista has garnered substantial financial support from leading life sciences investors Novo A/S and SV Life Sciences to fund this exciting new business," said Andrew Crockett, CEO of KalVista, in a press release. "We have an ambitious target to become a leading company focused on the development of novel treatments for DME and believe we have the team, the expertise, the assets and the approach to achieve this goal."
KalVista's aim is to develop novel, small molecule plasma kallikrein inhibitors, which KalVista acquired from Vantia Therapeutics, along with all relevant intellectual property. The company's pipeline is targeted towards intravitreal injection and oral administration routes.
Currently, treatment for DME consists of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) inhibitors. In normal amounts, the protein VEGF prompts angiogenesis, or the growth of new blood vessels. When it is overexpressed, however, it can lead to vascular disease in the retina as well as metastasis of tumors as they take advantage of increased blood supply. While intravitreal VEGF inhibitors are undoubtedly effective in minimizing macular edema and increasing visual acuity, not all DME patients respond fully to this avenue of treatment.
"Diabetic macular edema remains one of the major challenges in ophthalmology, and is a leading cause of visual loss in the developed world," Dr. Lloyd Paul Aiello, Director of Joslin's Beetham Eye Institute and co-founder of KalVista, said in a press release. "While new advances such as VEGF inhibitors are a breakthrough in treatment, current evidence demonstrates that a substantial number of patients with DME do not respond fully. I believe KalVista's approach, targeting a novel non-VEGF pathway, could represent a further important step in treating this condition."
Plasma kallikrein inhibitors represent a new method of treatment for DME. Plasma kallikrein is a circulating serine protease, one with an attractive amount of potential given the central role it is believed to play in the pathogenesis of DME within diseased retinas. On the company's website, KalVista notes that plasma kallikrein "is thought to be central to the pathological processes taking place within the diseased retina – inflammation, increased retinal vascular permeability and consequent edema, angiogenesis and hemorrhage – and is not essential for normal function or survival." By not being pivotal in any normal functions, plasma kallikrein is an ideal target since blocking or suppressing it will not affect other processes.
"The exciting discoveries regarding plasma kallikrein inhibition and its potential as a new approach to treating DME have created a significant opportunity," said Graham Boulnois of SV Life Sciences and Chairman of KalVista's board of directors, in a press release. "We believe that in KalVista we have put in place all the necessary scientific, clinical and drug discovery and development expertise, and sufficient funding, to capitalize on this opportunity and create a highly differentiated and valuable company."
KalVista's Board of directors will include Boulnois as Chairman, Martin Edwards of Novo A/S as Non-executive Director and Crockett as CEO.