Allergan has acquired RetroSense Therapeutics for $60 million upfront-plus, the companies said today, in a deal that adds RetroSense’s Phase I/IIa gene therapy candidate for retinitis pigmentosa (RP) to the buyer’s eye care pipeline.

RetroSense’s RST-001 is designed to be a first-in-class gene therapy application of optogenetics to retinas in which rod and cone photoreceptors have degenerated, resulting in additional light sensitivity to the retina.

RST-001 employs a photosensitivity gene, channelrhodopsin-2, to create new photosensors in retinal ganglion cells, with the aim of potentially restoring vision in retinal degenerative conditions. The gene therapy uses an approach to vision restoration pioneered by Zhuo-Hua Pan, Ph.D., at Wayne State University and Alex Dizhoor, Ph.D., at Salus University.

Last month, the low-dose cohort of patients had been safely dosed in RetroSense’s Phase I/IIa clinical trial, which was launched in March and is designed to evaluate the safety of RST-001 in patients being dosed. RST-001 received the FDA’s Orphan Drug Designation for the treatment of RP in 2014.

“The RST-001 program and its optogenetic gene therapy approach could be a real breakthrough in the treatment of unmet needs across a host of retinal conditions, including RP,” David Nicholson, Allergan’s chief R&D officer, said in a statement.

According to RetroSense’s website, RST-001 was being developed initially for RP, with advanced dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD) as a follow-on indication.

Allergan has paid RetroSense a $60 million upfront payment and has agreed to potential regulatory and commercialization milestone payments of undisclosed amounts tied to RST-001.

The deal is Allergan’s second acquisition of an eye care therapy developer in as many months. On August 11, Allergan said it planned to acquire ForSight VISION5 for $95 million-plus, in a deal that added a development-stage alternative to eye drops to the buyer’s eye care portfolio.

Eye care is one of Allergan’s areas of R&D focus, along with the central nervous system, medical aesthetics and dermatology, gastroenterology, women's health, urology, and anti-infective treatments.

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