Biotech hoping to rival Lucentis, Eylea, gains $45M funding round

San Francisco

Californian biotech Graybug Vision has raised enough capital to help it fund clinical trials of its wet AMD and glaucoma candidates.

The Redwood City, CA-based Johns Hopkins University spin-out raised $44.5 million in its series B round, led by Deerfield Management Company, as well as a host of new investors, including OrbiMed Advisors, and Clarus Ventures.

In connection with the financing Cameron Wheeler, principal at Deerfield, will join the Graybug Vision board along with Chau Khuong, partner at OrbiMed and Emmett Cunningham, a partner at Clarus.

The cash boost will be used to further the development of GB-102--Graybug Vision's lead drug for wet AMD, through to Phase II trials from its already completed preclinical studies.

The anti-VEGF and anti-PDGF drug is designed to only need two injections into the eye each year--far fewer than those already on the market, which typically are given each month or every other month.

The wet AMD market is dominated by Novartis’ ($NSV) and Roche’s ($RHHBY) Lucentis and its rival Eylea from Bayer and Regeneron ($REGN), which both make blockbuster sales (they also have additional licenses in other eyesight conditions).

The biotech will hope its treatment, should it gain approval in the future, will be able to compete on administration, given that direct injections into the eye can be difficult and distressing for patients.

The rest of the funds will be injected into a new clinical program for the biotech’s glaucoma compound, which is also testing to see if it can work as a twice-a-year treatment for glaucoma patients in the form of a subconjunctival injection.

Wheeler said: “We are very excited to work with Graybug Vision to support the significant improvement in care for patients suffering from AMD and glaucoma. This technology is a testament to the early academic work that is done at universities, and we are proud to support the Graybug Vision team and founders from Johns Hopkins University.”

The funding round comes after the company recently finished a 6-month study in animals for GB-102 in wet AMD, which showed it could work in rabbits, and did so without causing inflammation or toxicity after the injection, according to the company.

The FDA has agreed with the biotech’s plans for GB-102 IND-enabling studies and for a Phase I/II study in wet AMD patients to start early next year.

The drug was co-developed by Graybug Vision founder Justin Hanes, who is the Lewis J. Ort Professor of Ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute of the Johns Hopkins University.

Jeffrey Cleland, president and CEO of Graybug Vision, said: “The significant level of investor interest in our Series B financing is further validation of both the approach and the potential of our lead -compound, GB-102, to block both the VEGF and PDGF pathways from a single, twice-per-year injection.

“We are also pleased with the significant investigator interest we've already received for our planned Phase I/II clinical program.”

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