A new Ophthalmology Innovation Summit emerged Monday just prior to the start of the annual meeting of the American Society of Retina Specialists.
The half-day event drew nearly 250 people to the Marriott Marquis in San Francisco. Retina specialists shared the stage and ballroom with executives from strategics and start-ups, as well as investors with an eye on ophthalmology.
“If one looks at ophthalmic innovation broadly, across drugs, devices, and dollars in, retina dominates,” says OIS Co-Chair Emmett T. Cunningham Jr., MD, PhD, MPH, a partner at Clarus. “For this reason alone we’ve always had in mind to launch an OIS dedicated to retina. OIS@ASRS was the realization of that aspiration. Our first OIS@ASRS was, by all measures, a huge success. Strong attendance, great company presentations, and timely and topical panel discussions.”
Cunningham opened up the summit with an overview of the event. Immediately following his talk, a group of selected retina start-ups presented updates on their respective programs. We’ll have those presentations available on OIS.net later this month.
The summit’s agenda included panels and presentations targeting advances in imaging, combination therapies, and a discussion around the challenge of paying for breakthrough treatments. These segments also will be available at OIS.net later this month.
In one-on-one interviews with OISTV, OIS@ASRS co-chairs Drs. Tarek Hassan and Mark Humayun said the combination of OIS and ASRS shines much-deserved light to back-of-the eye innovation. Humayun replaces Hassan as president of the clinical group.
Here are 10 Takeaways from OIS@ASRS, including contributions from OIS writers Michelle Dalton and Richard Mark Kirkner:
- OIS co-chair Bill Link, who has assumed the role of chairman of AcuFocus, says the company is currently raising a round of capital. Hear more from Link in this week’s OIS Podcast. He also gives his overview of the inaugural OIS@ASRS. Link replaces Jim Mazzo, who has assumed the leadership role of the new ophthalmic unit at Carl Zeiss Meditec.
- Rho-kinase drugs are showing great potential not just in glaucoma, but as both monotherapy and adjunctive therapy (with anti-VEGFs) for wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD), according to Aerie, which is developing Rho-kinase compound AR-13154 for retinal disorders. Rho-kinase has the potential to address three targets: angiogenesis/vascular leakage, inflammation, and fibrosis, the company said.
- Dr. Calvin Roberts, senior vice president and chief medical officer at Bausch & Lomb, anchored the Retinal Showcase at the start of the event. In his talk, Roberts updated attendees on Bausch & Lomb’s Hypersonic Vitrector hypersonic cutter. The device would be an attachment to the Stellaris PC platform used in vitreoretinal procedures.
- TrueVision’s 3D Digital Microscope Platform recently received a boost, as CEO Forrest Fleming announced at OIS@ASRS 2016 that the company had entered into a partnership agreement with Alcon. The microscope uses a “heads-up” design that allows surgeons to view the ophthalmic surgical field without bending over.
- PFEnex has regained full rights to PF582, its Lucentis (ranibizumab) biosimilar candidate, from former partner Pfizer, Patrick Lucy, chief business officer, reported during the “Paying for Breakthrough Eye Therapies” session at OIS@ASRS 2016. The announcement coincided with release of results of a Phase I/II trial in which PF582 met its safety and tolerability endpoints compared with Lucentis.
- When it comes to starting patients on anti-VEGF therapy, 64% of retina specialists would defer to Genentech’s Avastin (bevacizumab), the lowest-cost agent – but if the costs of all three major anti-VEGF agents were not a factor, 73% would choose Regeneron’s Eylea (aflibercept), according to results of the American Society of Retina Specialists PAT survey that Tarek Hassan, MD, reported at OIS@ASRS 2016.
- Blaming drug companies and physicians for the high prices of drugs is misguided, Joshua Schimmer, MD, of Piper Jaffey shared at the OIS@ASRS 2016 panel “Paying for Breakthrough Eye Therapies.” Providers and drug developers are actually getting squeezed. “The pharmacy benefit managers are claiming much of that increase in price,” Dr. Schimmer said. Despite “tremendous innovation,” in ophthalmology, “the system is struggling with ways to preserve incentives for innovations and awards,” he stated.
- We’re now in a position where, as good as the VEGF-A suppression is with current treatments, we are “starving” for combination therapies, according to Pravin Dugel, MD. With several companies moving forward to address multiple validated targets, “these companies are on the precipice of changing treatment paradigms,” he said.
- During the same panel, Donald J. D’Amico, MD, said not to cast aside the steroid treatments: “We’ve shortchanged the steroids, and we should not continue to do so.”
- From the Wall Street perspective: Companies that are capable of producing medications that can improve vision and improve duration of treatment are the ones venture capitalist will fund.
Visit OIS.NET for additional updates on videos, interviews and articles from OIS@ASRS.