Beyond retinal detachment, lead candidate ONL1204 will also advance into the chronic conditions of glaucoma and dry age-related macular degeneration
ExSight Ventures completes and amplifies follow on investment in ONL Therapeutics
ONL Therapeutics, Inc. (“ONL”), a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company and ExSight Ventures (“EV”) portfolio company, announced it closed a $46.9 million Series B financing. EV syndicated $3.75 million. ONL is developing novel therapies for protecting the vision of patients with retinal disease. This funding will enable the completion of the company’s Phase 1 study in retinal detachment with ONL’s lead compound ONL1204 while advancing ONL1204 programs in two chronic indications, glaucoma and dry age-related macular degeneration.
ONL1204 is a novel, first-in-class small molecule fatty acid synthase (“Fas”) inhibitor designed to protect the retina from cell death via both direct and inflammatory signaling in a range of retinal diseases. Fas is a known inducer of apoptosis or cell death. The death of critical retinal cells is the root cause of vision loss and is implicated in a wide range of retinal diseases, including glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and inherited retinal degeneration (IRD; also known as retinitis pigmentosa).
Bios Partners led the round with additional participation from new investors Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JJDC, Inc., Kaitai Capital, PSQ Capital, and Michigan Capital Network Venture Fund III. Bios Partners has been an excellent partner and lead investor for another EV portfolio company, Trefoil Therapeutics. We’re gratified by their investment in ONL and have immediately seen the impact of their non-financial support. “Bios Partners has been instrumental in working with our team to build the syndicate and strengthen our plans,” stated David Esposito, ONL CEO.
Stella M. Robertson, Ph.D., co-founder of Bios Partners and a former vice president in research & development at Alcon Laboratories will join the board. “With its deep scientific foundation, compelling Phase 1 data in retinal detachment, and experienced leadership team, ONL Therapeutics is advancing towards providing neuroprotection for these patients and bringing new therapies to market,” Dr. Robertson said.
It was significant to EV that all parties remained committed to all indications and not only those of areas with large patient populations and high unmet need like glaucoma and dry-age related degeneration. Dr. Rahhal commented at the time of our initial investment in ONL, "No significant advances have occurred in visual results from the management of rhegmatogenous retinal detachment for the last 20 to 30 years. ONL has developed a therapeutic agent that, along with successful surgical repair, could significantly improve the visual outcomes of this potentially devastating condition.” We are glad that ONL found a like-minded group of investors that also wanted to maintain the retinal detachment program.
ONL’s strategic decision to prioritize the development of ONL1204 for the treatment of retinal detachment, for which the compound has been granted orphan drug designation by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), figured significantly in EV’s initial investment thesis. ONL demonstrated compelling Phase 1 clinical data by first focusing initial clinical trial plans on the acute indication of retinal detachment. The program provided a capital-efficient pathway to generating data and de-risking the science.
With the retinal detachment data ONL raised this Series B financing to advance the programs for chronic diseases. ONL1204 will be used in a Phase 1b study for open-angle glaucoma, a Phase 1b study in dry age-related macular degeneration, and a repeat dose toxicology study to support an accelerated plan for chronic dosing in several retinal diseases. This steady, capital-efficient development is a crucial component of our investment thesis.
ONL has thrived under CEO David Esposito's leadership. ONL has now raised more than $50 million and is advancing several programs into human trials since Mr. Esposito joined the company. With Mr. Esposito's leadership and the stewardship provided by co-founder and chief scientific officer, Dr. David Zacks, ONL has made remarkable progress and will advance their pipeline with this financing. We would like to recognize and thank Mr. Esposito, Dr. Zacks, and the ONL team for this accomplishment and the many that led to this moment. They are well situated to meet the challenges ahead as they move the ONL pipeline closer to meeting patients' needs.
We are grateful to continue our involvement with the ONL team.
(Full Press Release)
More: David's discussion with ExSight Ventures founding partner and host of the OIS Retina Podcast, Dr. Firas Rahhal.
Even more: Video from David's presentation at the OIS Retina Innovation Summit.