Visus raises $20M ahead of data drop on rival to AbbVie prospect

Visus Therapeutics has raised a further $20 million as it closes in on the release of midphase data on a potential treatment for age-related long-sightedness. The financing comes on the heels of phase 3 data on rival candidates in development at AbbVie and Eyenovia.

Seattle-based Visus looks set to cede a head start to AbbVie and Eyenovia but has still found a clutch of VCs willing to fund its pursuit of the rivals. Johnson & Johnson Innovation, RTW Investments and Wille came together to pump $36 million into Visus in March. Now, just five months later, LSP has led the investment of a further $20 million in Visus. Sage Partner and existing backers also participated. 

Visus will use the cash to move immediately into pivotal phase 3 studies upon the delivery of positive data from an ongoing phase 2 clinical trial of Brimochol in presbyopia, the medical name for the inability to focus on nearby objects that affects people aged 40 years and up. 

Upon starting the phase 2 trial in March, Visus targeted the delivery of top-line data in mid-2021. The listing for the 40-subject trial still lists June 2021 as the estimated completion date, but Visus is now aiming to have top-line data in the second half of the year. 

The slight slip could see Visus fall further behind Eyenovia and, in particular, AbbVie in the race to get a treatment for presbyopia to market. AbbVie reported the success of two phase 3 trials of its drug in October and went on to file for FDA approval in February. Eyenovia followed up with news that it had it the primary endpoint in a phase 3 clinical trial in May, although it still needs to run a second study.

Visus is yet to deliver phase 2 data but has a potentially differentiated asset. AbbVie and Eyenovia are both developing candidates based on pilocarpine, a direct acting cholinergic parasympathomimetic agent that is already used as a treatment for glaucoma. Eyenovia is pitching its delivery system as a point of difference to AbbVie, but the candidates have fundamental similarities.

Brimochol is a combination of carbachol and brimonidine. Carbachol, which like pilocarpine is a parasympathomimetic, is the active ingredient in Miostat and used in the treatment of conditions including glaucoma. Brimonidine is an alpha2-adrenoceptor agonist that is also used to treat eye conditions including glaucoma. 

By combining the two molecules, Visus is aiming to create a product that corrects presbyopia for more than eight hours. AbbVie presented phase 3 data on the effects of its candidate out to six hours after use. Statistically significant improvements in vision were seen at Hour 6.