Eye startup snags £13.5M; J&J exits Galapagos; Micreos bags €12M for antibiotic alternative

Welcome to the latest edition of our weekly EuroBiotech Report. We start this week with two pieces of fundraising news. In the U.K., secretive startup Precision Ocular secured £13.5 million ($18.8 million) from backers including Imperial Innovations (LON:IVO) to go after a list of retinal diseases currently treated by Regeneron's Eylea and Roche's Lucentis. And, in the Netherlands, Micreos snagged €12 million to take an enzyme-based alternative to traditional antibiotics into the clinic. Within days of Prime Minister David Cameron setting the date for the referendum on the U.K.'s involvement with the European Union, a who's who of British biopharma wrote a letter warning against voting to leave. The executives, who include AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot, think the life science sector faces disruption, expense and significant regulatory burdens if the U.K. votes to leave the EU. While the British biopharma industry was fretting about a split, executives at OSE Pharma and Effimune were putting the finishing touches to a merger. The French biotechs want to combine their pipelines and immune-activating and -regulating drugs. Johnson & Johnson sold its 5.1% stake in Galapagos. And more. Nick Taylor (email | Twitter)

1. Precision Ocular nets £13.5M to go after indications contested by Regeneron, Roche

Precision Ocular has raised £13.5 million ($18.9 million) to develop a pipeline of retinal disease drugs and accompanying minimally invasive delivery technologies. Retinal vein occlusion, diabetic macular edema and age-related macular degeneration top the list of indications being pursued by Precision Ocular, putting Regeneron's ($REGN) Eylea and Roche's ($RHHBY) Lucentis squarely in its sights.

2. J&J sells 5% stake in Galapagos after Gilead usurps it as largest shareholder

Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) has sold its 5.1% stake in Galapagos ($GLPG). The deal, which brings the 14-year relationship between the two companies to an end, comes shortly after Gilead ($GILD) made a $425 million (€385 million) investment in Galapagos and usurped J&J as its largest shareholder.

3. Micreos pockets €12M to take enzyme-based antibacterial into the clinic

Micreos has raised €12 million ($13 million) to advance its enzyme-based approach to killing bacteria into clinical trials. The drug, Staphefekt, has a different killing mechanism than traditional antibiotics, which Micreos thinks enables it to take out resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus while leaving other bacteria unharmed.

4. OSE Pharma to merge with Effimune to build out immunotherapy pipeline

OSE Pharma (EPA:OSE) has agreed to merge with Effimune. The deal, which would see OSE Pharma shareholders control 71% of the combined company, would result in a pipeline of products to both activate and regulate the immune system.

5. Linchpins of British biopharma throw weight behind campaign to stay in the EU

A who's who of British biopharma have put their names to a letter warning of the harm a Brexit would cause to their industry. If the United Kingdom votes to exit the European Union, AstraZeneca ($AZN) CEO Pascal Soriot, GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) R&D Chief Patrick Vallance and others predict it will cause disruption, expense and significant regulatory burdens, while also deterring inward investment.

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