New Sight Loss Firm KalVista Is Launched

KalVista Pharmaceuticals, a new ophthalmology company based in the UK, with a focus on diabetic macular edema (DME) has raised £8 million, helped by the investment arm of Novo Nordisk, to develop its ophthalmology research.

The cash comes from a series A round from Novo A/S and SV Life Sciences and the funds will be used to develop novel, small molecule plasma kallikrein inhibitors.  KalVista says these represent a new approach to the treatment of diabetic macular edema (DME), “a leading cause of adult visual loss in developed countries and a major unmet medical need”.

The Southampton-headquartered firm says its “advanced pre-clinical product pipeline” is targeting both intravitreal injection and oral administration routes.  KalVista acquired these inhibitors plus all relevant intellectual property from fellow UK group Vantia Therapeutics.

KalVista’s founders include “world-leading experts in diabetic retinopathy”, Harvard Medical School’s Dr Lloyd Paul Aiello and Dr Edward Feener.

Plasma kallikrein is a circulating serine protease that is believed to be central to the pathogenesis of DME within the diseased retina, but is not essential for normal function.  The detrimental effects of plasma kallikrein on the retina occur independently of VEGF, which has been an area of intense recent interest as a target for treating DME.  Dr Lloyd Paul Aiello said that DME remains one of the major challenges in ophthalmology, and while he acknowledged that new advances such as vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) inhibitors “are a breakthrough in treatment, current evidence demonstrates that a substantial number of patients with DME do not respond fully”.  KalVista’s approach targeting plasma kallikrein inhibition therefore has the potential to add to the treatment options for sufferers of DME including those that are non-responsive to VEGF inhibitors.

News of KalVista’s launch comes in the same week as SV Life Sciences and Imperial Innovations Group put £10 million into Autifony Therapeutics, a UK-based biotechnology start-up specialising in hearing loss and tinnitus which has been set up by ex-GlaxoSmithKline senior scientists.



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