GenSight Biologics Inc., Paris, France and Pixium Vision S.A. (Euronext:PIX), Paris, have announced a partnership initiative with the public research organization Fondation Voir et Entendre to develop two distinct therapies aimed at restoring vision to legally blind patients. The project, marketed as “SIGHT AGAIN”, will receive €18.5M over a 5-year period under the French government’s “Investment for the Future” initiative. The funds will be used to develop optogenetic and retinal implant technologies. The total cost of the SIGHT AGAIN proposal is understood to be approximately €47M.
Fondation Voir et Entendre is a public research organization focused on supporting pre-clinical and clinical research in the fields of vision and hearing loss. The organisations was set up in 2007 and comprises several partners including INSERM, Pasteur Institute and the Federation of the Blind and Visually Handicapped in France (FAF). The Foundation brings together key stakeholders in translational medicine including hospitals, clinical investigation centers, rare diseases organisations and research laboratories including the Centre for Research Institut de la Vision (Inserm / UPMC / CNRS). Bpifrance, a subsidiary of Caisse des Dépôts and the French state support a broad range of companies, from start-up to public by providing credit, guarantees and equity investment at key stages of commercial development.
Coordinated by GenSight Biologics, SIGHT AGAIN will develop two therapeutic approaches: an optogenetic gene therapy product and a retinal implant system. The technologies are very different and will target different aspects of the disease. GenSight, a recently established company, headquartered in Paris, is focused on the development of gene therapy based treatments for retinal degenerative diseases. The company’s lead product, GS010, is in a Phase 1b clinical study for the treatment of vision loss in Leber Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON), a rare mitochondrial disorder. The company is also developing optogenetics technologies, designed to render cells sensitive to light in order to restore vision in patients with very low vision or total blindness due to retinitis pigmentosa (RP). Commenting on the original funding of the company by a consortium of venture investors Bernard Gilly, co-founder and CEO stated: “Gene therapy is coming of age and ophthalmology is one of the most promising indications in particular because of the safety and efficacy demonstrated in certain trials. GenSight has a unique, proprietary approach to targeting the mitochondria in LHON developed by Dr Corral-Debrinsky and Jose Sahel at the Vision Institute, and exclusive access to key intellectual property from Novartis for using optogenetics to treat RP patients. Our outstanding links to leading ophthalmology physicians and scientists on both sides of the Atlantic, our strong link with the Foundation Fighting Blindness, our partnership with AFM/Genethon and our experienced management team are key to successfully moving our products through clinical developments to proof of efficacy.”