UK-based biotechnology company Exonate has secured a Seeding Drug Discovery fund from Wellcome Trust to continue development of an eye-drop treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration (wet AMD).
The company plans to use the £4.9m funding to accelerate the development of its first in class molecules, a topical eye drug as an alternative to exiting treatment by injections for wet AMD.
Last year, Exonate received a funding round of £1.5m from new and existing shareholders.
Small molecules that inhibit production of pro-angiogenic VEGF through selective inhibition of serine / threonine-protein kinase 1 (SRPK1)-mediated VEGF splicing have already been developed by the company.
They have demonstrated better efficacy as topical agents in preclinical models of wet AMD.
Exonate CEO Dr Catherine Beech said: “This award represents a strong endorsement of the approach taken by the company to discover and develop novel small molecules with a more targeted mode of action.
“The funding will enable us to accelerate our current programme to develop safer, more cost-effective drugs that can be easily administered as eye drops, improving adherence and benefitting patients.”
With the Wellcome Trust’s fund, several of these inhibitors will be taken into an optimisation programme, culminating in the nomination of a preclinical candidate drug with optimal characteristics for clinical development.
As part of the project, the candidate will be assessed in regulatory toxicology and safety pharmacology studies to support an application to the regulatory authorities to clinically evaluate at the end of the funding.
Exonate chairman Sunil Shah said: “This is a very competitive funding stream, and winning it is testament to the quality of Exonate’s science and management team.
“The financial support and expertise provided by the Trust will enable the company to execute its strategy to deliver safer and non-invasive treatments to wet AMD patients.”
Image: Super resolution microscopic investigation of human eye tissue affected by AMD. Photo: courtesy of Andy Nestl.