A biopharmaceutical company that spun out of Cincinnati-based Akebia Therapeutics just eight months ago has raised $27 million to support development and clinical trials of its drug for diabetic macular edema.
Novartis BioVentures led Aerpio Therapeutics’ series A, which also saw participation from Venture Investors LLC, Triathlon Medical Ventures, Kearny Venture Partners, Athenian Venture Partners and AgeChem Venture Fund, all of which have invested in Akebia.
Aerpio will use the funds to proceed with a phase 1b/2a safety and efficacy study of AKB-9778 later this year and development of its inflammatory bowel disease drug. The funds should also carry the DME drug through a large phase 2 trial, the company said.
Macular edema occurs when fluid accumulates in the central portion of the eye, resulting in blurred vision. It’s caused by leaks from damaged blood vessels resulting from diabetic retinopathy and affects up to 30 percent of people who have had diabetes for 20 years or more.
AKB-9778 is a small-molecule drug that’s based on blocking negative regulation on Tie2 receptors in order to prevent vascular leak and pathological angiogenesis. President and CEO Joseph Garner said in a statement that the company also thinks it also has potential applications in treating age-related macular degeneration and retinal vein occlusion.
The current standard of treatment for DME, along with blood sugar and blood pressure control, is macular laser therapy, but research over the past several years has focused on new therapies, including the use of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor therapies. Earlier this month, the FDA approved Genentech’s Lucentis for treating the condition, and other anti-VEGF treatments including Genentech’s Avastin and Pfizer’s Macugen, have been studied in this context as well. Other companies working on DME treatments include Ampio, which is in phase 2 trials of Optina, and Alimera, which is working toward approval of its Iluvien drug implant, although it has had some difficulty so far winning approval in the UK.
Aerpio is headquartered in Cincinnati and is run by the same executive team as Akebia, which is developing a drug for anemia and has raised upwards of $50 million.
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