ExSight Ventures ("ExSight") is pleased to announce our investment Re-Vana Therapeutics, Ltd, ("Re-Vana") to support pre-clinical development of sustained-release biologic and small molecule therapeutics. ExSight is proud to have led the $3.25 million pre-Series A financing with participation from InFocus Capital Partners (“InFocus”) and Visionary Ventures (“Visionary”). Leading this round represents a significant milestone in ExSight's maturation as a firm. Not coincidentally, a technology capable of sustained release biologic therapeutics has been a priority for ExSight from day one.
Re-Vana is a specialty ocular therapeutic and drug delivery company developing sustained-release therapeutics for significant sight-threatening ocular diseases. The technology was spun out from Queen's University Belfast, Northern Ireland. Re-Vana's sustained release ophthalmic therapeutics promise to reduce the frequency of intravitreal injections required to treat a wide range of retinal diseases, including neovascular age-related macular degeneration. The Re-Vana platform has the potential to deliver at least 4 to 6 months sustained delivery of a large molecule biologic, including anti-VEGF therapies. Re-Vana's technology could spur a new generation of glaucoma medications that may reduce or eliminate the need for eye drops by delivering small molecules for 6 to 9 months or longer. Re-Vana has also secured the rights to a novel nanoparticle polymer-based drug delivery technology for ophthalmic applications.
ExSight's Re-Vana investment is the culmination of over two years of our team's efforts. Working closely with Re-Vana's founders and leadership team we were able to lead this round and build a syndicate of other respected existing and new investors. ExSight led the first tranche closing of $2.08 million with participation from InFocus Capital Partners and existing U.K. investors, including TechStart Ventures, Clarendon Fund Managers, and Qubis Ltd. ExSight added to our investment with an AngelList Syndicate. Visionary Ventures led the second closing of $1.17 million.
With the second closing, Re-Vana became the first company in which all three specialized U.S. ophthalmic funds have invested in the same company. Re-Vana's President and Chief Executive Officer Michael O'Rourke said, "We are especially fortunate to have participation from three highly respected U.S. ophthalmic-focused investors." ExSight echoes Mr. O’Rourke’s sentiments and we are grateful to have substantial participation from InFocus and Visionary. The proceeds will advance proof-of-concept development for Re-Vana's proprietary photocrosslinked EyeLief™ and OcuLief™ biodegradable technologies for the delivery of biologic and small molecule therapeutics, as well as enable expansion of the company's research and development team.
Dr. Rahhal first met Re-Vana's CEO, Michael O'Rourke at OIS@ASRS in August 2017 and was immediately impressed with the promise of Re-Vana's technology and Mr. O'Rourke's in-depth ophthalmic industry knowledge and experience. The ExSight team had grown skeptical of drug delivery technologies due to limitations in several underlying technologies. An initial conversation with Dr. Raj Thakur, CSO and Co-Founder, established our confidence in Re-Vana's approach. Reflecting on the experience, Dr. Rahhal said, "Joining up with Re-Vana is very gratifying because we are so confident in the clinical relevance and, ultimately, direct and profound impact on patient care, something we have felt since first meeting Michael O'Rourke and Dr. Thakur and learning about the technology over two years ago."
As part of this financing ExSight's James Murray will join Re-Vana's Board of Directors along with representatives from InFocus and Visionary. Dr. Rahhal commented, "James, as a result of our deep understanding and confidence in Re-Vana, has done an amazing job putting together the syndicate needed for the current round. It is a terrific blend of experience and talent. I look forward to working with this great team in the coming months and years to bring Re-Vana's products to patients." Dr. Rahhal and Dr. Nissen will join the Re-Vana Scientific Advisory Board. Dr. Nissen added, “Supporting important drug delivery technology has been a major goal at ExSight since the firm’s inception. Re-Vana is a clear standout of all the companies we have studied. Michael O’Rourke and the Re-Vana team have the experience and the vision bring their products to market and have a significant positive impact on patient’s lives. We are proud to partner with Re-Vana in developing EyeLief™ and OcuLief™.”
We are grateful to join Mr. O'Rourke, Dr. Thakur, the Re-Vana team, and a remarkable group of investors in bringing this much needed therapeutic technology to the clinic and improving patient care.
Full Press Release
ExSight Ventures ("EV") is pleased to announce our continued involvement and additional investment in Envision Diagnostics, Inc. ("Envision"). EV joined existing investors and new investors in Envision’s recent Series A financing. Envision is developing diagnostic devices that capture eye exams digitally. Envision's all-in-one box solution enables faster, cheaper, and more accurate readings of an eye exam. The Envision device will translate into higher quality and more efficient eye exams.
EV has committed additional capital in this Series A financing. Proceeds from this Series A round will fund the development of the company's Version 4 Instrument and allow Envision to execute its FDA strategy.
Envision recently successfully completed a clinical trial that compared Envision’s results to standard of care.
Envision continues to develop and iterate on its current prototype at Dr. Rahhal's clinic. Envision's data collection and standardization will revolutionize the standard of care for ophthalmology patients "by enabling consistent, reproducible testing and robust reference ranges that facilitate identification of abnormalities."
Envision's automation will reshape the ophthalmology by decreasing cost, increasing efficiency, improving quality, and standardizing eye exams.
We expect strong demand and a steep adoption curve based on clinical insights by the ExSight team and others. Funding was the single biggest challenge facing the company. With this issue now resolved, we are confident in Envision's ability to deliver on their promise of revolutionizing eye care.
ExSight Ventures (“EV”) joined a $10 million Series B financing round in 2C Tech Corporation Inc. (the “Company” or “2C Tech”), an early-stage biotechnology company. 2C Tech is developing nanoparticle technology to treat a number of retinal degenerative conditions. EV joins select investors Hoya Corp., InFocus Capital Partners and others. This investment will enable the Company’s pursuit of an early feasibility study (“EFS”) for the treatment of Retinitis Pigmentosa (“RP”).
Since 2C Tech’s founding they have sought to bring quantum dot (“QD”) technology to patients. The Company has accomplished much to date with a relatively modest amount of capital. 2C Tech has already conducted an ex-US Phase I clinical trial to assess the safety of their QD technology in humans. The Mexico City based trial was completed in 2016. The results were promising: QDs were shown to be safe for use in humans and preliminary data suggests the technology’s efficacy in improving vision damaged by retinitis pigmentosa.
2C Tech moves toward a clinical study on the accelerated EFS pathway. The Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) “EFS Program facilitates the conduct of early feasibility studies in the United States to increase access for patients to potentially beneficial technologies and to support device innovation.” This device pathway promises a faster and less capital-intensive time to the clinic. The EFS pathway allows for the enrollment of a small number of subjects and is used to evaluate the device design concept with respect to initial clinical safety and device functionality.
The Company expects to submit an Investigational Device Exemption application (“IDE”) to the FDA in early 2020. Once approved 2C Tech will initiate the EFS clinical trials to demonstrate efficacy and product safety. The trial protocol will include the Ora-VNC™ mobility course as a primary endpoint, a functional vision metric specifically tailored for RP patients. The approach is similar in concept to that used in the successful Spark Therapeutics trials. The majority of clinical trial sites have already been identified and await the IDE approval to begin enrollment. The first patient should be treated by the middle of 2020 with results expected in the latter part of the year.
If successful with the EFS study 2C Tech has several options for rare and orphan disease pathways that could further accelerate and expedite time to market. The technology would represent a breakthrough in treating not only patients with retinitis pigmentosa but other blinding conditions as well. Other potential indications include AMD, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. Dr. Rahhal stated, "2C Tech is attempting this unique application of quantum dot technology, to quickly get treatment in the hands of clinicians, using routine, well-accepted, office-based intravitreal injection. 2C Tech could soon help large numbers of patients across the entire spectrum of RP and other retinal degenerations."
The combination of strong pre-clinical data, promising clinical data and a strong leadership team gives us confidence that 2C Tech will be able to bring their device to market and greatly impact the treatment of RP patients. We are excited to be part of the 2C Tech story.
The ExSight Ventures team is enthusiastically announcing the launch of the ExSight Ventures Syndicate on AngelList! AngelList is a platform site that enables accredited investors to invest in companies and funds. Syndicates “are single-deal VC funds created to invest in a specific startup.” AngelList Syndicates allow investors “to invest deal-by-deal in specific companies.” AngelList provides a digital platform that will enable both ExSight Ventures and these companies access to additional investors outside of our existing networks. The platform delivers an efficient solution for us to offer and administer co-investment opportunities.
Our investment strategy targets the most promising early-stage ophthalmology companies. These prospective investments include innovative companies that span sectors including therapeutics, diagnostics, and devices. The financings these companies are seeking to raise are frequently more than our current investment capabilities permit. We believe we have found a solution that will help us scale our investment capabilities and strengthen our investing abilities.
The ExSight Ventures Syndicate will provide our existing investors and other accredited investors access to the types of investments that comprise our current portfolio. Where and when possible, we will use AngelList Syndicates to amplify the firm’s capabilities. Not every opportunity will qualify for the Syndicate nor will it always be possible to obtain an allocation, particularly in deals where ExSight Ventures does not lead. Our AngelList Syndicate will allow our “backers” to help us fund the most innovate companies in vision-care. The AngelList platform will help us in our mission to preserve and restore vision. We have built a very robust pipeline of investment opportunities and are eager to maximize our participation in those opportunities through AngelList Syndicates.
ExSight’s second fund, 8th Line II held a first close May 27 with participation from many of our existing investors. We also welcomed several new investors. The focus remains the same: to invest in the most innovative companies working to preserve and restore vision. We are quite fortunate to count among our investors in each fund colleagues, family, and friends. The ExSight team is exceptionally proud of what we are building and consider our investors an integral part of our story. Were it not for the support and partnership of each of you this would not be possible. When we came together to form ExSight in 2014, we did so intending to partner with talented founders and committed investors to tackle vision loss. Five plus years into that journey, that dream is becoming a reality. The road to success for startups and the venture funds that invest in them is long. Though still early, we are encouraged by the progress of our portfolio companies and the continued support of our investors. Thank you to each one of you!
Now, back to work!
ExSight Ventures partner, Dr. Firas Rahhal is not a stranger to the stage at the various Ophthalmology Innovation Summit meetings (AAO, ASCRS) and has even appeared on OIS TV as an interviewee (here). Though based in Los Angeles Firas made his debut as OIS TV host at this year's OIS@ASRS in Chicago. Dr. Rahhal sat down with many leaders from the world of ophthalmology interviewing executives from Bausch + Lomb, Aerie Pharmaceuticals, Genentech, and more in Chicago. Firas also interviewed the CEO of one of the early-stage companies we are most excited about, Michael O'Rourke from Re-Vana Therapeutics. Re-Vana is developing a sustained drug delivery technology.
Dr. Rahhal had this to say about the experience, "OIS at ASRS was an incredible meeting. The diverse array of talent from the scientific, clinical, investment, and commercial communities was particularly impressive this year. I was gratified and appreciated the opportunity to serve on the Retinal Innovations Financing Panel with key investment professionals in our space, as well as formally interview, for “OIS TV”, many industry leaders with new developments in the Ophthalmology space, including Dry AMD therapeutics, long-acting drug delivery to the retina, as well as surgical devices and Artificial Intelligence applications."
When asked if he had a future in television, Firas remarked, "I really enjoyed the interviews tremendously, and had fun with the lively discussions with some extremely brilliant, innovative, and nice people. I was glad that my “chatty” and informal professional communication style turned out to be handy, for a change!”
The ExSight Ventures team will be in attendance at the next OIS event when it convenes ahead of the American Academy of Ophthalmology in San Francisco this October. If you're attending, please reach out to say hello!
LensGen, an ExSight Ventures portfolio company, was the buzz of this year's American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery meeting (“ASCRS”) in San Diego. Members of the ExSight team were in the audience to hear Drs. Eric Donnenfeld, Uday Devgan, and Sumit (Sam) Garg present benefits of the company’s novel Juvene™, (the Complete Premium) IOL, and early results from the “Grail” Study. In addition to the reception LensGen had three high profile presentations during the ASCRS meetings. The first presentation by Uday Devgan, M.D. was given at Cataract/Refractive Subspecialty day. Dr. Devgan, who was also a presenter at the LensGen reception was interviewed after his talk by Healio. Dr. Devgan was the first to introduce ExSight to LensGen several years ago.
The next presentation by Sam Garg, M.D. was made to a full audience at OIS. Dr. Garg’s talk was front-page news in Eye World ASCRS. The final presentation in this series was given by Eric Donnenfeld, M.D., to a packed house in the main ballroom at the Innovators Lecture session. Each year, ASCRS honors individuals whose innovative ideas have benefited ophthalmologist and their patients at the prestigious Innovators Lecture. Dr. Donnenfeld presented on the Juvene IOL technology and shared the early “Grail” study results. You can watch that presentation in Healio.
It was a very exciting ASCRS for LensGen! We are honored to be a small part of the LensGen story and are very optimistic about their future prospects. Ram and the rest of the LensGen team deserve praise for their dedication and execution.
The OIS meetings always keep us busy with a full slate of meetings. These one-day conferences occur around various ophthalmology academy and society meetings throughout the year. OIS unites key constituents in ophthalmic innovation, including industry, entrepreneurial, and clinical leaders all working to develop and commercialize products to preserve and restore vision. The meetings present an opportunity for ExSight to meet with our portfolio companies, learn about new potential investments, and network with other investors and key industry partners. Dr. Rahhal joined investors from KKR, InFocus Capital Partners, and others in a panel discussion led by OIS co-chair, William “Bill” Link of Versant Ventures and Flying L Partners.
Trefoil Therapeutics, Inc., an early-stage biopharmaceutical company and ExSight Ventures portfolio company, announced their $28 million Series A financing. Trefoil is developing a regenerative approach to treating corneal dystrophies and other diseases. We initially invested in Trefoil's 2016 Series 1 financing and enthusiastically participated in the Series A financing. This financing is a significant milestone in bringing their treatment closer to an approved therapy.
When we first invested we wrote in a note to our investors, "Trefoil's innovations promise to improve patients' lives with a more efficacious treatment and significantly lower risk minimally invasive procedure." Since then, the company has made significant progress in bringing this treatment closer to reality for patients suffering from these disorders. Trefoil has generated preclinical data that has shown "TTHX1114's ability to accelerate corneal clearing in animal models of corneal endothelial dystrophy and enhance healing in corneal chemical injury and herpetic keratopathy." The company has also demonstrated "TTHX1114 stimulates the proliferation and migration of endothelial tissue" in human cornea organ culture models of both healthy and diseased corneas.
Bios Partners led the round and was joined by Access Biotechnology with participation from all existing investors. The proceeds will provide for the completion of a Phase 2a proof-of-concept study in corneal endothelial dystrophy. Trefoil plans to file an Investigational New Drug (IND) application with the FDA in early 2020 and subsequently begin the clinical trial. This financing will also fund the continued development of a topical formulation of TTHX1114 for the treatment of ulcerative conditions of the cornea. The company plans a second IND submission for corneal epithelial conditions in 2021.
The Trefoil team's ability to plan carefully, execute effectively, and communicate clearly have advanced the company's development to this crucial stage. An exceptional and seasoned leadership team, robust preclinical data, and compelling science bode well for getting these breakthrough therapies to patients. We consider ourselves fortunate to be a small part of the Trefoil story. Press Release.
Other press: Fierce, Healio, PE Hub, Pro Rata, Term Sheet, and InVision.