Novartis said that the acquisition is in line with its strategy of finding treatments for patients with vision loss and the potential of optogenetics as a therapeutic agent
Novartis has acquired Arctos Medical, a Swiss gene therapy start-up developing optogenetic therapies for the treatment of blindness, for an undisclosed amount.
The acquisition adds a pre-clinical optogenetics-based AAV gene therapy programme and Arctos’ technology to Novartis ophthalmology portfolio.
Arctos’ technology is a unique treatment method for inherited retinal dystrophies (IRDs) and diseases that involve photoreceptor loss, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Novartis said that the transaction is in line with its strategy of finding treatments for patients with vision loss and the potential of optogenetics as a therapeutic agent.
Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research president Jay Bradner said: “Optogenetics is emerging as a promising therapeutic approach that might restore sight to patients who are legally blind.
“The Arctos technology builds on our conviction that optogenetic gene therapies may meaningfully help patients battling devastating eye diseases.”
Traditionally, gene therapy treatments are designed to correct a specific gene, which may provide benefits only for a small subset of patients.
Arctos technology is not limited to a specific gene, and can potentially address many forms of IRDs regardless of the underlying mutation, said Novartis.
Its unique, light-sensitive optogene is delivered to specific retinal cells using gene therapy and turns the targeted cells into replacement photoreceptor-like cells.
Therapeutics developed based on optogene technology can be used to treat any disease that causes blindness due to photoreceptor death, said the company.
Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research ophthalmology global head Cynthia Grosskreutz said: “We’ve watched this technology develop and mature into a therapeutic program that complements our existing portfolio and gives us new optogenetics technology to wield in our efforts to bring desperately needed therapeutic options to patients for these blinding diseases.”
Arctos developed its technology based on research by its scientific co-founders Drs Sonja Kleinlogel and Michiel van Wyk of University of Bern, Switzerland.
The company was incubated by +ND Capital and was later supported by Novartis Venture Fund through a Series A funding round led by +ND Capital.