Eye gene therapy: J&J is already moving to eye gene therapy
- Johnson and Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals announced on Wednesday that they have been granted rights to research gene treatment to cope with a serious form of vision loss due to aging.
- The HMR59 treatment is performed once in the eye and is intended to support retinal cells in producing a protein which protects them from overactive immune reaction damage. HMR59 has conducted a small study and is now in an interim clinical trial with some 130 participants in patients with an advanced type of disease called age-related macular degeneration.
- In his contract with Hemera Biosciences, the private biotech founded for HMR59, Janssen did not reveal financial terms. Yet the organization has now invested over US$100 million in partnership in eye gene therapy with New York-based biotech MeiraGTx.
J&J takes a more pragmatic approach to gene therapy in contrast with other biotech companies such as Novartis, Roche, and Pfizer. The organization has not borrowed multimillion dollars or introduced any genetic therapies of the first kind.
But when J&J walks through the field more it explicitly sets its goals. The initial focus of the business is on the ocular conditions which were appealing to gene therapists because the eyes can be handled in much smaller doses than the other areas of the body and therefore eliminate the logistical and production difficulties.
The first big change of Janssen was the collaboration at the beginning of last year with MeiraGTx, which allowed it exclusive access to sell a handful of its gene-therapies for heritage retinal diseases or IRDs.
In July, a very small study suggesting that treatment with one of these therapies may delay or stabilize loss of vision in patients with a condition known as X-linked retinitis pigmentosa was revealed. The enterprises reported that they plan to continue to the late-stage evaluation.
Janssen also has access through the Hemera arrangement to another therapeutic level of gene therapy. A phase 1 study of the HMR59 study was completed by 17 patients with the much more normal dry” type of AMD last December, after testing for medication. In a declaration on December 2, the companies reported that a second stage-1 analysis of HMR59 in ‘wet’ AMD conducts follow-up visits in order to assess long-term protection. Treatment of Hemera is one of many gene therapies in AMD growth, including Regenxbio and Adverum biotechnology candidates.
Janssen considers the ability of the therapy to treat an advanced form of AMD known as geographical atrophy as especially significant. The organization reports that regional atrophy is more prevalent in older adults, causing significant vision damage and impacting five million people worldwide.
Geographical atrophy has also drawn the interest of Novartis, which decided to purchase Vedere Bio for 150 million dollars ahead of the scheme, a small gene therapist. Novartis concluded that the technology of Vedere is capable of handling both geological atrophy and IRDs.