Kala reels in $22.5M to get its next-gen eye drops into PhIII

Kala CEO Guillaume Pfefer

Kala Pharmaceuticals, co-founded by MIT biotech luminary Robert Langer, has closed a $22.5 million B round, cash the company says will help advance its novel approach to eye treatments.

Ysios Capital led the latest round, joined by previous investors Third Rock Ventures, Polaris Partners, Crown Venture Fund and Lux Capital. With the money, Kala is looking to hit the gas on its pipeline of topical ocular therapies that can penetrate the mucus layer on the surface of the eye, eschewing inconvenient injections and potentially boosting efficacy through the company's mucus-penetrating particle platform, or MPP.

Kala, a 2013 Fierce 15 honoree, is gearing up to launch four clinical trials for its lead candidate, loteprednol etabonate MPP: a Phase III study to treat inflammation and pain following cataract surgery; a Phase II in meibomian gland disease; and exploratory trials on diabetic macular edema and retinal vein occlusion, the company said. Kala also has an early-stage MPP-powered treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration, a drug the company plans to advance toward candidate selection this year.

Beyond the potential of any one potential therapy, Kala's promise lies in its platform, said Ysios General Partner Karen Wagner, who will join the biotech's board in connection with the Series B financing. In addition to ocular therapy, MPP has shown promise in respiratory ailments, women's reproductive health and gastrointestinal diseases, according to the company, lighting the way for future applications.

"This approach has yielded game-changing clinical-stage product candidates that may provide more convenient dosing for patients and improve efficacy in a range of ophthalmic indications, including dry eye disease and wet age-related macular degeneration," Wagner said in a statement. "There is significant demand for breakthrough treatments for ocular diseases and Kala is uniquely poised to address these needs."

In the short term, Kala intends to keep plugging away on its ambitious clinical calendar, CEO Guillaume Pfefer said, planning to "kick the tires" on its promising candidates and report out data amid a sea change in the world of ophthalmic drugs. Eight of the world's top 10 eye treatments will face generic competition by 2015, Pfefer said, setting the stage for Kala to attract a lot of attention if its trials come out positive next year.

"Our plan is to build a pretty significant pipeline of innovative products at a critical time for the industry," the CEO told FierceBiotech. "It's perfect timing for this unique technology to bring fruit."

Thanks to some hefty investments in manufacturing, Kala will have the option of commercializing any approved products on its own, Pfefer said, but the biotech is keeping its ears open to potential partnerships, licensings and deals. Outside of ophthalmology, Kala has inked an MPP-focused feasibility agreement in wound care and is in the midst of discussions with potential partners on other applications, Pfefer said.

- read the statement

Special Report: 2013 Fierce 15 - Kala Pharmaceuticals