RetroSense Therapeutics has taken up its option to acquire an exclusive global license to a gene-based approach to treating retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration, from researchers at Wayne State University School of Medicine.
The technique, developed by Zhuo-Hua Pan, Ph.D., and colleagues, involves genetically converting light-insensitive inner retinal neurons into photosensitive cells, to restore light sensitivity to retinas that lack photoreceptors. The approach uses a virus to deliver the green algae-derived photoreceptor gene channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) to retinal neurons. Initial studies by professor Pan’s team suggest that retinal neurons expressing ChR2 become light-sensitive, leading to restored responses to light in the visual cortex of the brain.
RetroSense was established in 2009 with a view to developing the channelrhodopsin technology, and is located close to Wayne State University. Lead product, RST-001, will be developed initially for the treatment of retinitis pigmentosa, with advanced dry-AMD as a follow-on indication. The firm projects initiating clinical trials before the end of 2012.
“Channelrhodopsin-based approaches to vision restoration are garnering a great deal of attention from academia and industry right now,” comments Sean Ainsworth, founder and CEO at RetroSense. “It’s a very hot field and we are quite pleased to be aligned with Dr. Pan and his colleagues who pioneered the approach.”