Companies to Watch: RE-VANA Therapeutics

RE-VANA Therapeutics, fresh off a US $1.6 million (£1.2 million) round of seed funding in 2017, is focusing preclinical investigation of its sustained-release drug-delivery technology for both large- and small-molecule agents in retina and glaucoma, president and CEO Michael O’Rourke says.

Founded by Raj Thakur, PhD, who now serves as chief scientific officer, and David Jones, DSc, both of Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, RE-VANA is developing its pipeline to reduce the frequency of intravitreal injections of anti-VEGF agents for retinal disease and daily eye drops for glaucoma.

The retina platform is called OcuLief, and it utilizes a photo-cross-linked injection of a gel-like formulation to release the drug for up to nine months. The idea is to inject the gel into the eye, possibly intravitreally, where it hardens in the aqueous. It is then photo-cross-linked with 365 nm of UV light, which then converts it to an eggshell-like structure that releases the medication over time. “Through cross-linking we can control the porosity of the implant, and with porosity we can control the amount of drug that is released and for how long it is released,” O’Rourke explains.

EyeLief is the glaucoma platform in which the photo-cross-linking occurs before the implant is delivered into the eye. The implant can be fabricated in various shapes and sizes, and can release the active agent for up to 12 months. Both platforms feature zero-order drug release, flexible delivery routes, are biodegradable and biocompatible, and can deliver either hydrophobic or hydrophilic drugs.

O’Rourke notes that RE-VANA recently entered into a research agreement with Nicoxto cooperatively investigate sustained delivery of two glaucoma molecules. RE-VANA also holds an exclusive intellectual property license from Queens University, Belfast, for accelerated UK filing, and is in talks with other potential research partners, he adds.