Step forward for gene therapy

25 November 15

written by:

Carol Bewick

(more articles)

At Fight for Sight we are always proud and excited to say that the UK is world leading in eye research but we are continually frustrated that getting new treatments to market takes such a very long time.

We are particularly reminded of that today when the Chancellor’s autumn statement is due to be announced and the sector prepares themselves in case of cuts to the science budget or cuts in real terms to health.

As we anticipate (or worry) we were delighted to see another big step forwards in getting gene therapies for eye disease to market.

Athena Vision has been set up by UCL Business PLC, the wholly-owned technology transfer company of UCL. It is a biopharmaceutical company focused on the development of gene therapies to treat a range of devastating eye diseases causing blindness. This is a major step towards getting therapies to market by one of the most respected eye research institutions in the world.

Athena has entered into a global partnership with MeiraGTx Limited to develop and commercialise Athena’s ocular gene therapy programmes arising from research conducted by Professor Robin Ali, Head of the Department of Genetics at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology. Professor Ali has been a good friend to Fight for Sight as well as a recipient of our funding. He is a respected leader in the field of cell and gene therapy for the eye.

MeiraGTx, which is developing gene therapies for ocular diseases, neurodegenerative disorders and other diseases, will advance Athena’s pipeline of gene therapies through clinical trials to commercialisation. The partnership will pursue initial clinical research programmes in inherited retinal conditions: Leber congenital amaurosis, achromatopsia and retinitis pigmentosa. A Phase I/II clinical trial in LCA2 is expected to start early next year.

The establishment of Athena accelerates the development of promising new therapies for inherited retinal diseases, which have been supported by the Government funded Medical Research Council (MRC), from early-stage research through clinical development via the MRC’s Developmental Pathway Funding Scheme (DPFS).

In UK research public funding is a vital part of the development of therapies. We at Fight for Sight can only provide limited funds with our supporters donating every penny that we spend. Success in our research leverages public spend which can then attract commercial funding to get treatments through their final stages of development to market.