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NanoDimension and Novartis Venture Fund invest CHF 8 million for optogenetic retinal gene therapies

NanoDimension, a venture capital company in Lausanne, and Novartis Venture Fund in Basel, have launched a new ophthalmology company, Arctos Ltd., to develop viral vector technology for the restoration of eyesight on several ophthalmic indications.  NanoDimension has led the round of CHF 6 million while the balance of the funding will be provided by the Novartis Venture Fund.  The technology was built by work conducted at the University of Bern led by scientific co-founders Sonja Kleinlogel and Michiel van Wyk.  According to the new company (Arctos Ltd.), a chimeric protein is understood to serve as an optogenetic tool will be acting on metabotropic glutamate receptor subtype 1 (mGluR6; GRM1) within certain retinal cell types other than photoreceptors.


According to intellectual property filings assigned by Arctos Medical AG, a light-sensitive chimeric protein includes domains from at least two members of the G-protein-coupled-receptor (GPCR) protein super family, fused to yield a light-sensitive GPCR chimera capable of coupling a light signal to the signaling cascade of the metabotropic glutamate receptor 6 (mGluR6).  The invention may be provided for medical therapy and pharmaceuticals for treating loss of vision resulting from retinal photoreceptor degeneration. According to the patent filing, a first GPCR family member may contribute domains to mediate light-sensitivity to a chimeric light-sensitive GPCR protein and belongs to a family of light-sensitive GPCR proteins, also called photopigments. In some cases, the GPCR protein is melanopsin, in particular human melanopsin. A second of the at least two GPCR family members is mGluR6, which contributes domains for coupling the light signal to the intracellular signaling cascade of mGluR6, which is a native component of the cell membrane of ON-bipolar cells in the inner retina.


It is understood that Arctos Ltd will receive two CHF 4 million tranches, subject to milestones and research outcomes.  The investment will be using preclinical and clinical research programs supported by a management team aiming to build out both in-license and in-house technologies.  Senior expertise in both ophthalmology and gene therapy will be focused on novel treatment opportunities in indications of diabetic retinopathy, retinitis pigmentosa, glaucoma and others.