GenSight Biologics S.A. (Euronext: SIGHT) has raised over €40M on the Euronext exchange following a venture capital fundraising of €36M approximately 12 months prior. The Paris based gene therapy company is focused on “discovering and developing novel therapies for mitochondrial and neurodegenerative diseases of the eye and central nervous system.”. In April 2016 the company announced the withdrawal of a planned IPO (initial public offering) on the US NASDAQ, citing market conditions. The company had filed in July 2015 to raise up to $100 million on NASDAQ however market conditions were cited as factors which had forced a change in strategy. The company currently has two Phase III trials underway with a gene therapy containing the human ND4 gene (NADH dehydrogenase subunit 4) for the treatment of Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON). The experimental therapy has received orphan drug designation in both the US and the EU.
Gensight was co-founded by Bernard Gilly, former CEO of both Fovea and Transgene, Jose-Alain Sahel and Serge Picaud, both from the Institut de la Vision at INSERM, Jean Bennett from the University of Pennsylvania, Luk Vandenberghe and Connie Cepko from Harvard Medical School and Botond Roska of the Freidrich Miescher Institute of Biomedical Research. The company was originally launched in the first half of 2013, with an investment of €32M in a Series A funding round, representing the second largest European Series A funding of that year. While gene therapy has traditionally been a difficult arena in which to raise funding, recent developments in the field, including a number of successful ophthalmic clinical studies and the approval of Europe’s first gene therapy product (Glybera alipogene tiparvovec gene therapy for lipoprotein lipase [LPL]), the industry’s outlook has altered significantly. As gene therapy’s image changes and novel gene editing tools are developed, new start-ups and initiatives have benefitted from an in-flow of funds seeking to access potentially attractive returns-on-investment. GenSight has focused its efforts on LHON with an estimated prevalence of 1 in 40,000 in Europe, and RP with a prevalence of 1 in 4,000. The company expects that 1,100 to 1,200 LHON patients will be seeking therapies for this disorder each year, a demand that GenSight hopes to address.
Commenting on the IPO filing Bernard Gilly, CEO stated, “we had enough cash to last to mid-2017, but not enough to get to final results from the Phase III trials at the end of that year. It was very clear that if we listed on the Euronext market, we’d be the first gene therapy company listed in Europe. That led us to think that if we stayed in our home market we’d have enough interest.”