UCD 2015 start-up award winner Phision has eyes on $3.5bn market

20 Nov 2015

Dr Breandán Kennedy, co-founder, Phision Therapeutics

Early-stage life sciences venture Phision Therapeutics has been named overall winner of this year’s UCD VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme. The company is behind a revolutionary new treatment for vision loss.

Phision Therapeutics is a new venture emerging from research carried out over several years by founder Dr Breandán Kennedy with Dr Alison Reynolds at the UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science and the UCD Conway Institute.

The new venture is developing proprietary therapeutic drugs to more effectively treat vision loss to prevent blindness associated with ageing or diabetes.

The retinal disease age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss in western societies. In the US alone, the retinal therapeutic market, to treat such diseases, is valued at $3.5bn annually.

Eyes on the prize

The current treatment for patients experiencing vision loss due to AMD involves up to 12 eye injections per year. It is recognised that patients are also at risk of eye infections or retinal detachments due to the injections. In addition, up to 30pc of AMD patients do not respond to these injections, and for them there is currently no effective alternative treatment.

To address such issues, and using an unbiased, systems-pharmacology approach, Phision Therapeutics has identified and is developing novel small molecule drugs with novel mechanisms of action to curb the undesired growth of ‘leaky’ new blood vessels in the eye, which lead to vision loss and blindness.

Kennedy said that the objective is to raise seed funding to develop the product for pre-clinical and clinical trials.

“Looking to the future, we are currently seeking €400,000 in seed funding to enable us to formulate and manufacture our novel small molecule drugs,” Kennedy said.

“Thereafter, following additional fundraising, we plan to proceed with pre-clinical and clinical studies to validate that our drugs offer a better treatment option, including a reduction in the number of eye injections, for patients experiencing vision loss associated with AMD.”

Funders of this research to date include; Enterprise Ireland; Science Foundation Ireland; Irish Research Council; Health Research Board and the European Commission’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Programme.

“Excellent research and innovation are central to all that we do in UCD, delivering impact in areas of importance and opportunity,” Orla Feely, UCD vice-president for research, innovation and impact, said.

“This was clearly displayed by the early-stage ventures that participated on this year’s VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme. Through this programme, we are supporting our researchers to accelerate the establishment of research-based companies providing value-added products and services for the global market.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years