Organizations will confirm that intravitreal injection preserves visual acuity and slows disease progression.

JDRF has pledged up to $2.2 million in milestone-based financial support and research expertise as part of a partnership with KalVista Pharmaceuticals focused on advancing the latter’s preclinical-stage kallikrein inhibitor into proof-of-concept clinical trials as a treatment for preserving vision and slowing the progression of diabetic eye disease. The aim of the partnership will be to generate data supporting the drug’s potential as a therapy for diabetic macular edema.

More specifically, KalVista’s candidate will be chosen from a series of small molecule plasma kallikrein inhibitors that are being developed for potential delivery via intravitreal injection. Preclinical studies being co-funded by JDRF will evaluate whether this mode of administration of kallikrein inhibitors is safe and effective.

“What makes our collaboration with KalVista so exciting is that we are gradually seeing this novel therapy, which could represent a whole new approach to treating DME, move from basic research discovery into a potential commercially viable drug with the help of JDRF funding,” notes Aaron Kowalski, Ph.D., assistant vp of treatment therapies for JDRF.

Ophthalmology firm KalVista claims research has identified kallikrein as a potential therapeutic target for patients with diabetic retinopathy, and suggests that the serine protease contributes to increased blood vessel leakage and retinal thickening. Prior JDRF-funded studies by KalVista co-founder Edward Feener, Ph.D., at Harvard Medical School and Joslin Diabetes Center, found that plasma kallikrein levels are increased in the vitreous fluid of DME patients and the protein is activated, resulting in blood vessel inflammation and permeability through the production of bradykinin. The firm is developing a pipeline of both oral and injectable kallikrein inhibitor candidates. 

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