OcuTerra snags $35M for phase 2 trial of eye drop with former Allergan CEO as chair

OcuTerra Therapeutics has been on a journey to rebrand and reboot its vision for getting an eye drop to market. Now, with ex-Allergan CEO Brent Saunders as chair, the biotech has $35 million to bankroll a phase 2 trial of its single asset.

The series B will fund a midstage study of a small-molecule eye drop that attempts to eliminate the need for invasive, intravitreal injections for preserving vision. The goal of OTT166 is to "travel through the ocular tissue to get to the retina," said CEO Kerrie Brady in an interview with Fierce Biotech. 

The drop has been tested in phase 1 studies in patients with diabetic retinopathy who have diabetic macular edema, a vision-threatening complication that involves "swelling of the most visually sensitive parts of the retina, which interferes with vision," Brady said. After 28 days of taking one drop twice daily, there was a response in about 35% of patients, Brady said. 

Now, the biotech will test the eye drops over a longer period of time in the midstage study, which is slated to begin early next year. The phase 2 trial will be a six-month study, Brady said, and OcuTerra believes the treatment has the potential to be administered earlier than eye injections, which could be critical to prevent severe progression of the disease. 

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Brady joined OcuTerra in June 2020 from Centrexion Therapeutics to help bring the company to the next stage through new financing, the CEO said. All investors in the series B were family-owned offices, the company said. The total offering amount was $50 million, according to an Aug. 24 Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

Since Brady joined, the company rebranded from SciFluor Life Sciences, poached Saunders as chair, beefed up its board with pharma consulting veteran Robert Ruffolo, Ph.D., and former InterMune General Counsel Robin Steele, and snagged former Novartis ophthalmology head David Tanzer, M.D., as chief medical officer. 

Saunders also recently joined the board of Cambrian Biopharma in conjunction with the biotech holding company's $100 million series C last month.