SOUTHAMPTON, England, August 23, 2011 /PRNewswire/ --
KalVista Pharmaceuticals ("KalVista"), a new ophthalmology company with a focus on diabetic macular edema (DME), has raised £8 million in a series A round from leading life sciences investors Novo A/S and SV Life Sciences.
The Company is developing novel, small molecule plasma kallikrein inhibitors, which represent a new approach to the treatment of DME, a leading cause of adult visual loss in developed countries and a major unmet medical need. KalVista's advanced pre-clinical product pipeline is targeting both intravitreal injection and oral administration routes. KalVista acquired these inhibitors plus all relevant intellectual property from Vantia Therapeutics.
KalVista's scientific founders include world-leading experts in ophthalmology, diabetes and diabetes-related complications, Dr Lloyd Paul Aiello and Dr Edward P. Feener. Dr Aiello is Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, Director of the Joslin's Beetham Eye Institute and Inaugural Chair of the National Eye Institute Diabetic Retinopathy Clinical Research Network. Dr Feener is Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and an Investigator in Vascular Cell Biology at the Joslin Diabetes Center, where his team led the discovery of plasma kallikrein in the vitreous fluid from people with DME and has shown that inhibition of plasma kallikrein decreases pathological retinal vascular permeability in pre-clinical studies. Dr Aiello has guided the clinical development programs for a wide range of recent ophthalmology drugs, and has been a lead investigator in the trials determining the benefit of VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) inhibitors for the treatment of DME.
Plasma kallikrein is a circulating serine protease that represents an attractive drug target as it is believed to be central to the pathogenesis of DME within the diseased retina, but is not essential for normal function. The detrimental effects of plasma kallikrein on the retina occur independently of VEGF, which has been an area of intense recent interest as a target for treating DME. However, while intravitreal VEGF inhibitors have shown clear benefit in clinical trials through reducing macular edema and increasing visual acuity, a large proportion of DME patients do not respond fully to VEGF treatment. KalVista's approach targeting plasma kallikrein inhibition therefore has the potential to add to the treatment options for sufferers of DME including those that are non-responsive to VEGF inhibitors.
KalVista is supporting the therapeutic expertise with a management team with proven experience in bringing small molecules from discovery through the clinic to commercialisation. This team is led by Andrew Crockett as CEO and includes the former discovery group from Vantia Therapeutics. This group developed the extensive library of proprietary plasma kallikrein inhibitors, including the lead compounds that now form the basis of KalVista's discovery platform.
The KalVista board of directors will include Graham Boulnois of SV Life Sciences as Chairman, Martin Edwards of Novo A/S as Non-executive Director and Andrew Crockett as CEO.
Dr Lloyd Paul Aiello, Director of Joslin's Beetham Eye Institute and Co-founder of KalVista, commented on today's announcement: "Diabetic macular edema remains one of the major challenges in ophthalmology, and is a leading cause of visual loss in the developed world. While new advances such as VEGF inhibitors are a breakthrough in treatment, current evidence demonstrates that a substantial number of patients with DME do not respond fully. I believe KalVista's approach, targeting a novel non-VEGF pathway, could represent a further important step in treating this condition."
Graham Boulnois of SV Life Sciences and Chairman of KalVista's board of directors, said: "The exciting discoveries regarding plasma kallikrein inhibition and its potential as a new approach to treating DME have created a significant opportunity. We believe that in KalVista we have put in place all the necessary scientific, clinical and drug discovery and development expertise, and sufficient funding, to capitalize on this opportunity and create a highly differentiated and valuable company."
Andrew Crockett, KalVista's CEO, said: "I am delighted that KalVista has garnered substantial financial support from leading life sciences investors Novo A/S and SV Life Sciences to fund this exciting new business. We have an ambitious target to become a leading company focused on the development of novel treatments for DME and believe we have the team, the expertise, the assets and the approach to achieve this goal."
About KalVista Pharmaceuticals
KalVista is a new ophthalmology company with a focus on diabetic macular edema (DME). KalVista is developing novel plasma kallikrein inhibitors, which represents a new approach to the treatment of DME, a leading cause of adult visual loss in developed countries. KalVista has an advanced pre-clinical product pipeline and is targeting both intravitreal injection and oral administration. Although VEGF inhibitors clearly can benefit DME, a significant number of patients do not respond fully to these agents and have limited treatment options. Plasma kallikrein inhibitors target a distinct molecular pathway and as such have the potential to offer those patients an effective treatment option.
KalVista's founders include world-leading experts in diabetic retinopathy, Dr Lloyd Paul Aiello, Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Joslin's Beetham Eye Institute, and Dr Edward Feener, Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Joslin Diabetes Center. In addition to this therapeutic expertise, KalVista has a management team with proven experience in bringing small molecules through the clinic to commercialisation and as a result has attracted significant financial backing from leading life science investors, SV Life Sciences and Novo Ventures.