Eyevance Pharmaceuticals announced a worldwide licensing agreement with OcuNexus Therapeutics for Nexagon, a 30-base antisense oligomer being developed for the orphan indication of persistent corneal epithelial defect (PED) nonresponsive to standard of care.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Nexagon is a first in class unmodified antisense oligodeoxynucleotide that inhibits a cell membrane hemichannel forming protein, connexin43 (Cx43). Cx43 is overexpressed after acute injury or in chronic disease states leading to pathological prematurely open hemichannels, allowing ATP to enter the extracellular space. Extracellular ATP triggers and perpetuates the immune system’s inflammasome pathway releasing multiple proinflammatory cytokines resulting in microvascular breakdown, vessel leak, and limbal tissue ischemia. Nexagon inhibits Cx43 overexpression and the inflammatory cascade, re-establishing limbal microvasculature and promoting regeneration of the corneal epithelium.
“Eyevance is committed to developing and commercializing innovative eye care products. Accordingly, our acquisition of Nexagon from OcuNexus represents a landmark deal for our growing organization,” Jerry St. Peter, Chief Executive Officer and Director, Eyevance, said in a company news release. “Nexagon is a unique product candidate that, if successfully developed, stands to benefit an underserved patient population. We look forward to executing our next phase of clinical development as we continue to build a legacy of innovation in ophthalmics.”
“We are very excited to have obtained this opportunity, not only to potentially provide a future treatment for this orphan condition, but also the prospect to become a frontrunner in development of an antisense technology treatment modality for the anterior segment,” Mark C. Jasek, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer, Eyevance, said in the news release.
As part of its plan to develop Nexagon, Eyevance is currently funding a pivotal clinical trial with an anticipated start date of Q1 2019.
“Persistent epithelial defect is a serious condition that significantly diminishes quality of life,” Victor L. Perez, MD, Professor of Ophthalmology, Director of Ocular Immunology, Duke University School of Medicine, said in the news release. “A product that addresses the disease pathology at a genetic level, would provide an excellent, much-needed addition to our treatment paradigm for these nonresponsive PED patients. I look forward to following Nexagon’s clinical development and hope to see favorable results following future clinical trials.”
“This technology heralds a landmark event for OcuNexus and importantly, if successful in the clinic, a new era of transformationally treating microvascular disease upstream from other technologies by inhibiting the inflammasome” Brian Levy OD, MSc., Chief Executive Officer, OcuNexus Therapeutics, said in the news release.