Oculis announced it has successfully closed a Series B financing round of CHF 20 million ($20.3 million). The funds will be used to advance the clinical development of the company’s lead program OC-118, a proprietary topical product currently in a phase 2b clinical trial for the treatment of diabetic macular edema (DME), the leading cause of blindness in young adults in developed countries. In prior pilot studies, OC-118 demonstrated a statistically significant and clinically meaningful improvement of visual acuity and reduction of central macular thickness of DME patients.
OC-118 has been developed using Oculis’ novel Solubilizing Nanoparticle (SNP) technology platform, which improves both the ability to formulate drugs as eye drops and their bioavailability in the eye tissues including anterior and posterior segments. Existing preclinical and clinical data suggest that the SNP technology can open the way for formulating drugs as effective and well-tolerated topical treatments of retinal conditions with unmet need, including DME. Significant improvement of tolerability and dosing frequency for anterior segment conditions may also be expected.
In addition to the phase 2b DME program, Oculis is advancing OC-118 in other ophthalmic indications and is developing other drug candidates using SNP technology to the clinical stage. The Series B financing will allow further development of these candidates.
The financing was led by a syndicate of leading international life science investors including Bay City Capital, Novartis Venture Fund, and Pivotal bioVenture Partners. Existing investors, including Brunnur Ventures and Silfurberg, also participated in the financing.
In conjunction with the financing, Oculis is relocating its corporate headquarters to Lausanne, Switzerland, while its R&D remains in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Dr. Riad Sherif, formerly Area President Europe, Middle East & Africa at Alcon and formerly a senior executive at Novartis, has been appointed as Chief Executive Officer of Oculis, with Páll Ragnar Jóhannesson, becoming Chief Financial Officer and Managing Director of Oculis in Iceland. Dr. Sabri Markabi, previously Senior VP, Head of R&D and Chief Medical Officer at Alcon, will join as Chief Scientific Officer, and the company’s founders, Prof. Einar Stefánsson and Prof. Thorsteinn Loftsson are becoming Chief Innovation Officer and Chief Research and Technology Officer, respectively. Florent Gros (Novartis Venture Fund) will be joining the Board as Chairman, in addition of Arni Blöndal (Brunnur Ventures) and Stefan J. Sveinsson (formerly Global EVP RD at Actavis), Lionel Carnot (Bay City Capital) and Rob Hopfner (Pivotal Bioventure Partners).
“I am extremely pleased to be joining such a great team to develop what could be the next generation of ophthalmic treatments," Dr. Sherif, CEO of Oculis, said in a company news release. "Oculis founders have meticulously developed the novel SNP technology that improves both the ability to formulate drugs as eye drops and their bioavailability in eye tissues including the posterior segment. This technology opens a new era of breakthrough ophthalmic therapies that could provide important benefits to patients. Our goal with the lead program OC-118 is truly to transform the way DME is treated and managed today.”