Shining the Light on a Combination Products Platform
Light Sciences is using a spin-off strategy to revive light-activated therapy in a number of clinical areas, trasnforming a niche application into a platform technology.
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A mere seven years ago, before the approval of Visudyne photodynamic therapy, patients losing their vision to age-related macular degeneration (AMD) were told that there was nothing that could be done for them. Today, AMD sufferers may choose from an assortment of drug treatments. Genentech's Lucentis will reach almost $1 billion in sales in its first year on the market, analysts predict, and it doesn't claim to do anything except slow down the progression of the disease. Moreover, the drug does this better than first-generation anti-VEGF drug Macugen. And if those options aren't enough--and they're not--a handful of start-ups developing device-based therapies are making significant progress by applying some highly innovative approaches. ScyFIX, for example, is applying electrical stimulation to halt the effects of AMD and possibly repair the damage done. NeoVista is applying radiation therapy to the back of the eye, an approach that could serve as an alternative to Lucentis and other drugs based on growth factors, which require frequent injections into the eye. Retina Implant has developed an implantable microchip that will stimulate intact nerve cells in the retina to recreate the sense of sight.
Millions of middle-aged and soon-to-be elderly people worldwide are running headlong into vision problems, and this looming patient pool is already beginning to steer the future course of physician practice and research and development dollars. The potential for huge rewards is certainly present for developers of safe, effective new therapies for disorders of the aging eye.
2005's top early stage venture financings reflect a drive for size and experience on the biotech side, and the demand for less-invasive procedures in the device world. Start-Up lists the top ten Series A rounds of 2005.