UCL Business, the wholly owned technology transfer company of UCL, has formed Athena Vision, a biopharmaceutical company focused on the development of gene therapies to treat a range of devastating eye diseases causing blindness.
Athena has entered into a global partnership with MeiraGTx to develop and commercialize Athena’s ocular gene therapy programs arising from research conducted by Professor Robin Ali, head of the department of genetics at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and a leader in the field of cell and gene therapy for the eye.
MeiraGTx, which is developing gene therapies for ocular diseases, neurodegenerative disorders and other diseases, will advance Athena’s pipeline of gene therapies through clinical trials to commercialization. The partnership will pursue four initial clinical programs in inherited retinal conditions: Leber congenital amaurosis type 2 (LCA2) caused by deficiencies in RPE65, achromatopsia caused by mutations in CNGB3 or CNGA3 and X-linked retinitis pigmentosa caused by mutations in RPGR. A phase I/II dose-escalation clinical trial in LCA2 is expected to start in 1Q 2016. Development costs for all four programs are supported by an undisclosed upfront payment by MeiraGTx.
Athena and MeiraGTx have unparalleled access to resources through their affiliation with the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and its partner Moorfields Eye Hospital, which together form one of the world’s largest vision research centers, with access to a sizable and diverse patient population. The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Moorfields Biomedical Research Centre and Clinical Research Facility will support the translation of the partnership’s gene therapy programs from the laboratory to early-phase clinical testing.
The establishment of Athena accelerates the development of promising new therapies for inherited retinal diseases, which have been supported by the Medical Research Council (MRC), from early-stage research through clinical development via the MRC’s Developmental Pathway Funding Scheme (DPFS).