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The eyes have it
January 2012
by Kelsey Kaustinen  |  Email the author

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LONDON—In a new effort to take aim at eye disease, two companies have their sights set on glaucoma, with Proximagen Group PLC and specialty ophthalmic pharmaceutical company Altacor Ltd. announcing the signing of a collaborative research and development agreement. Per the agreement, Altacor will take over the research and development of PRX00933, Proximagen's lead compound from its 5HT2c program, for the treatment of glaucoma. Altacor will be responsible for the preclinical development costs and, under the agreement, will have an option for exclusive global rights to ophthalmic indications. Financial details were not disclosed.  
"We are delighted by this agreement with Altacor, one of the U.K.'s most respected ophthalmic specialty pharmaceutical companies, to progress the development of PRX00933 in a new indication," Kenneth Mulvany, CEO of Proximagen, said in a press release. "This deal is another example of the successful execution of Proximagen's strategy of retaining certain rights to programs with the costs of development being funded by a partner. In this case, we will be retaining rights for all indications of PRX00933 outside the field of ophthalmology."  
 
Proximagen acquired the 5HT2c program, which includes PRX00933, when it purchased Cambridge Biotechnology from Swedish Orphan Biovitrum in 2009. 5HT2c agonists have shown to have some potential as glaucoma treatments by reducing intraocular pressure, which is often associated with glaucoma.
 
PRX00933 is an agonist at the 5HT2c receptor with the potential to treat psychiatric and ophthalmology disorders, diabetes, epilepsy, urinary incontinence and obesity, as it was originally developed as a targeted approach for controlling the safety center of the brain, thereby achieving weight control. Proximagen and Altacor's collaborative research program will focus on developing PRX00933 in glaucoma, using the existing clinical package to aid in development.  
 
"PRX00933 is a highly interesting molecule with the potential to deliver a novel complementary mechanism in the treatment of glaucoma. Altacor is excited to add this project to its expanding pipeline as it is synergistic with existing projects and can be fast-tracked to the clinic," Fran Crawford, CEO of Altacor, said in a press release. "If the development program fulfills its promise, this product will add significantly to the clinical armamentarium in the treatment of this increasingly common condition. This deal is a further step in building Altacor's presence in ophthalmology as a specialty pharma company with growing sales and a strong pipeline of development products."  
 
Glaucoma is a chronic condition in which the optic nerve is damaged. As Altacor explains on its website, "untreated elevated [intraocular pressure] causes irreversible damage to the optic nerve and loss of retinal fibers, resulting in a typical pattern of visual fields loss which is progressive and permanent. Initially, this is only noticeable using special tests, but if allowed to progress, it can lead to 'tunnel vision' and ultimately, loss of vision." Some treatments, including surgery, can slow the progression, but there is no cure as of yet. The company currently has four products within its pipeline indicated for glaucoma: ALT 022 for steroid-induced glaucoma, ALT 401 for glaucoma surgery (orphan), ALT 004/a and ALT 025. ALT 401 is still in the formulation stage, ALT 022 and ALT 025 are in the preclinical stage and ALT 004/a has reached the regulatory stage.  
 
Proximagen says it has no predictions as to PRX00933's commercial potential, but there is certainly no lack of demand, as the global ophthalmology market was worth more than $12 billion in 2008, according to Datamonitor Stakeholder Opinion: Ophthalmology 2010. Glaucoma, which is listed as the second leading cause for blindness by the World Health Organization after cataracts, represented the single biggest market within that sum, with sales exceeding $5 billion. More than two million people are affected by glaucoma in the United States alone, and approximately 120,000 are blind from the eye disease, which accounts for 9 percent to 12 percent of all cases of blindness within the nation.
 
Code: E011208

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