SV Health Investors led the round, alongside Samsara BioCapital and Jeito Capital, with additional financial backing from MRL Ventures.
The company, which is incorporated in the UK with a US subsidiary, said it will use the proceeds to assemble and develop a diversified pipeline of product candidates that combines “scientifically compelling targets with innovative translational approaches.”
EyeBio was founded by Dr David Guyer and Dr Anthony Adamis. Those eye disease experts previously collaborated with SV Health Investors to co-found Eyetech Pharmaceuticals, where they developed and commercialized the first anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) drug for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), in 2005.
“Before that, as a practicing clinician, and as a retinal surgeon, there really wasn’t much I could do for people with macular degeneration. There was laser surgery, which was very barbaric, destroying the very tissue we were trying to save.
"So, through Tony’s [Dr Adamis] work at Harvard, we believed pharmacotherapy was the way to go and we were fortunate enough to run the first trial and get the first approval for a drug for macular degeneration. In 2020, the anti-VEGF market had global net sales of over US$11.5bn,” said Dr Guyer on a call with BioPharma-Reporter.
Despite that important step forward, the two co-founders felt strongly that they still had unfinished business, and hence the need to establish EyeBio. “We have hit the ceiling in terms of what anti-VEGF can do: 50% of patients don’t get the kind of response we want. So, we are looking to address that other 50% of urgent, unmet medical needs.”
The EyeBio management team combines deep experience in ophthalmology with proven innovation and success in clinical development: “We are fortunate in that, for a very new company, there is a very senior group of people [on board] who have all done this before," continued Dr Guyer.
The company's senior management team comprises:
- Sarah Milsom, chief operating officer, who most recently was VP of translation at Touchlight Genetics and has a background in life sciences strategy, development, and commercialization;
- Jonathan Prenner, MD, chief medical officer, a nationally recognized retinal specialist and current clinical professor and chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School;
- Divya Chadha Manek, OBE, senior vice president of clinical development, who most recently was director of business development and marketing for the UK’s National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Clinical Research Network. She also served as the clinical trials workstream lead with the UK Vaccine Taskforce (VTF) overseeing the UK COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials portfolio;
- Paul Stephens, PhD, senior vice president of chemistry, manufacturing, and controls (CMC), who previously was senior director and head of antibody biology at UCB and brings more than 35 years of experience in the biotechnology industry; and
- Sam Smart, vice president of finance, who most recently was director of operations at Artios Pharma and brings more than 25 years of experience in finance and operations.
The company’s board of directors is chaired by Kate Bingham, managing partner at SV Health Investors, who, most recently, was chair of the UK Vaccine Taskforce (VTF). Other Board members include:
- Dr Mike Ross, managing partner at SV Health Investors;
- Srinivas Akkaraju, founder and managing general partner at Samsara BioCapital, with more than 20 years of experience in life sciences venture capital;
- Andreas Wallnoefer, partner at Jeito Capital, who has extensive experience in the industry as a former member of the Roche R&D executive leadership team, along with
- The two co-founders of EyeBio.
“Our goal is to build a broad and diverse pipeline of therapies for the eye. There are multibillion dollar commercial opportunities and urgent unmet medical needs in relation to Wet AMD, Dry AMD, diabetic retinopathy, dry eye and glaucoma,” remarked Dr Guyer.
Moreover, there has been a transformation in the past few years in terms of ocular drug development, he noted. “We are seeing very exciting research at all levels, both academically and in industry.”
Research is now being driven by the eye primarily, with medications directed towards ocular disease no longer just an offshoot from research focused on other conditions. “We think that is going to bring a lot of opportunities.”
The company has one asset already but is not disclosing further details on that for now. It is open to inquiries regarding in-licensing and acquisition of further assets into its portfolio.
Dr Guyer believes, however, that the gene therapy market is saturated. “We are looking more broadly. I see the future of ophthalmology as being very similar to oncology where we are seeing combination therapies, cocktail treatment. While the anti-VEGF [drugs] were a big step forward, it is going to be the combination of another novel mechanism of action with an anti-VEGF drug that will give us synergistic effects. That is a major area [of ocular drug development] and one that we are very excited about.”
The company will rely on contract manufacturing, added the co-founder.
UK market footprint
EyeBio has established a footprint in the UK to take advantage of the “innovation-friendly environment” there for its clinical trial development.
The UK, post COVID-19 and Brexit, now has “one of the fastest approval processes from both a clinical trial and marketing authorization perspective," remarked Dr Guyer.
The transatlantic team, experts with key regulatory and clinical insight, give the newly formed business access to "the best of clinical development in the UK as well as the US," he said.