In its second year OIS@ASRS has gone from a half-day to a full-day program that tomorrow will showcase 21 different presentations from companies in the retina space, including five private companies that have flown under the radar, and will tackle emerging science like how retinal imaging can improve clinical trials and what directions in innovation heavy hitters such as Allergan and Carl Zeiss Meditec are taking.
“We are excited to continue the OIS tradition with a now full-day format for our second annual OIS@ASRS,” says co-chair Emmett T. Cunningham Jr., MD, PhD, MPH, managing director of Clarus Funds. The other co-chairs are William J. Link, PhD, of Versant Ventures, and Gilbert H. Kliman, MD, of InterWest Partners. OIS@ASRS 2017 is Thursday, a day before the 2017 annual meeting of the American Society of Retina Specialists (ASRS).
Companies Private and Public, Big and Small
This year the retina company showcases split into two sectors: public and private. The Retina Public Company Showcase, moderated by Bausch+Lomb SVP and CMO Cal Roberts, MD, includes Aerie Pharmaceuticals, Alimera Sciences, pSivida, Ohr Pharmaceutical, and Aerpio Pharmaceuticals. The Private Company Showcase highlights Stealth BioTherapeutics, ONL Therapeutics, Translatum Medicus Inc., ProFarma, and Drusolv Therapeutics, with Regeneron’s executive director of ophthalmology medical affairs Namrata Saroj, OD, moderating.
Dr. Cunningham, in this week’s OIS Podcast, explains the rationale for adding the private company showcase. “My guess would be that most people have not heard of all of those companies,” he says. In feedback from previous OIS conferences, participants expressed a desire to hear more from emerging companies, “so we tried very hard to pull some of those in by reaching out to them,” Dr. Cunningham adds.
Eleven other companies will provide presentations in the following sessions:
- Combination Therapy in AMD and DME (Roche/Genentech, Regeneron, Opthea Ltd., and Allegro Ophthalmics)
- Retinal Drug Delivery (Clearside Biomedical, Graybug Vision, Ocular Therapeutix, and Genentech/ForeSight VISION 4)
- Gene and Cell Therapy (REGENXBIO, GenSight Biologics, and BioTime)
The first morning session wraps up with a panel that explores the role of retinal imaging in clinical trials, with Jason Ehrlich, MD, PhD, senior group medical director of Genentech, moderating. “Imaging is key to virtually all aspects of ophthalmology, but it’s particularly relevant and burgeoning in the retinal space now,” Dr. Cunningham says. The panel will discuss detection of apoptosing retinal cells (DARC) as a biomarker, and the use of optical coherence tomography (OCT) and OCT angiography in AMD and diabetic retinopathy clinical trials.
Financing and Innovation
Andrew Gitkin of Piper Jaffray returns to OIS@ASRS to provide his update on public market trends in ophthalmology, and then a panel moderated by NEA partner Ali Behbahani, MD, delves into seed stage financing. The lineup includes Mark S. Blumenkranz, MD, MMS, chairman and managing director of Lagunita Biosciences; Angela Macfarlane, president and CEO of ForSight Labs; Firas M. Rahhal, MD, partner in ExSight Ventures; and Christy Shaffer, PhD, general partner of Hatteras Venture Partners.
“Early-stage financing both for drugs and devices is the most challenging and we thought we should continue to highlight this area, and we wanted to bring together people who handle financing from different perspectives,” Dr. Cunningham says.
After the networking lunch, Dr. Blumenkranz will receive the OIS Lifetime Innovator Award and sit for an interview with Dr. Cunningham. Dr. Blumenkranz is also the H.J. Smead Professor Emeritus and director of the Ophthalmic Innovation Program at Stanford University’s Byers Eye Institute, whose development he spearheaded. He served as its founding director from 2010 to 2015. He was also the founding director of the vitreoretinal fellowship program at William Beaumont Hospital and chairman of the ophthalmology department at Stanford from 1997 to 2015. An early innovator in vitrectomy techniques, Dr. Blumenkranz helped usher in the modern era of intravitreal, gene, and surgical adjuvant drug therapy; new lasers; and laser tissue interactions.
“I just think it’s quite rare in our space to have someone who’s bridged private practice, academic practice at the level of chairman of a major United States department, and then [went] into investing as an entrepreneur,” Dr. Cunningham says of his interview subject.
Panels on Emerging Therapeutic Approaches
The afternoon includes panels in three of the aforementioned sessions involving company presentations. ARGUS II co-inventor and ASRS president Mark S. Humayun, MD, PhD, professor at the University of Southern California, moderates the panel discussion on combination therapy in AMD and DME with retina luminaries David Brown, MD, of Retina Consultants of Houston, Pravin Dugel, MD, of Retinal Consultants of Arizona, and Jeffrey Heier, MD, of Ophthalmic Consultants of Boston.
ASRS president-elect John Pollack, MD, of Illinois Retina Associates, moderates a discussion on drug delivery with a panel comprising frequent clinical trial principal investigators Szilárd Kiss, MD, of Weill Cornell Medical College; David Boyer, MD, of Retina-Vitreous Associates Medical Group; and J. Michael Jumper, MD, of West Coast Retina Medical Group.
After company presentations on gene and cell therapy, four panelist will discuss the latest findings in that space: Thomas Ciulla, MD, Indiana University; Lucian Del Priore, MD, PhD, Yale University; Joel Naor, MD, Kodiak Sciences; and Steven Schwartz, MD, Jules Stein Eye Institute, UCLA.
The sessions wrap up with Dr. Kliman moderating a panel of corporate leaders on Corporate Retina: Future Directions. “We did think it would be nice to bring together a group of leaders who drive the innovation more than the business thinking in this organization,” Dr. Cunningham says, adding the purpose of the panel is “to talk about where innovation is going, what they see as the great unmet needs, the great approaches, the promising targets, etc.”
Participants will include C. David Nicholson, PhD, Allergan’s chief R&D officer; Angelo Rago, head of ophthalmic diagnostics, Carl Zeiss Meditec; Dirk Sauer, PhD, global development unit head, ophthalmology unit at Novartis Pharma AG; Naveed Shams, MD, PhD, head, global R&D and chief science officer, Santen Pharmaceuticals Ltd.; Carl Romano, PhD, executive director and head of ophthalmology research, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals; and Dr. Ehrlich of Genentech.
Dr. Cunningham will wrap up OIS@ASRS 2017 with concluding remarks before the one-hour networking reception.