Ascendis spins out new ophthalmology biotech Eyconis, gaining equity and biobucks

Ascendis Pharma and Frazier Life Sciences have spun out the former’s oncology assets into a new biotech, backed by the likes of RA Capital, HealthQuest Capital and venBio. 

Introducing Eyconis, the latest spinout to hit biotech’s block, unveiled Monday morning with $150 million in committed capital. After focusing its attention on endocrinology and oncology, Danish company Ascendis has elected to hand over its eye disease work to the new venture. 

Eyconis will have exclusive rights to Ascendis ophthalmology assets, which according to Ascendis’ public pipeline includes at least one preclinical wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) med. The new biotech will be based in Redwood City, California, with some Ascendis employees expected to join the team. Ascendis will have an undisclosed amount of equity in Eyconis and stands to make up to $248 million in biobucks should the assets thrive and reach the market. 

Oliver Stauch, former head of ophthalmology at Ascendis, will be Eyconis’ chief operating officer, with HealthQuest Senior Partner Emmett Cunningham, M.D., Ph.D., taking the executive chairman role. The assets are based on Ascendis' foundational transient conjugation (TransCon) platform, which aims to improve the delivery of parent drugs using an “inert carrier,” a shield of sorts protecting the drug before it reaches its final destination. 

The platform essentially bets on the crux of current therapeutic limitations being delivery, not the biology of the drug itself. 

“We believe the TransCon technology platform will be the first to achieve long-acting and effective delivery of multiple clinically validated biologics, which together constitute the most commonly used therapies for the major causes of retinal blindness,” Cunningham said in a release. 

The rest of Eyconis’ board will be made up of representatives from Frazier, HealthQuest and venBio, though Ascendis will be able to nominate one representative.