Firm says Phase II studies showed LAF-1 inhibitor led to improvements in tear production and visual parameters.

Ophthalmic biopharma firm SARcode Bioscience raised $44 million in a Series B round of financing to support Phase III development of its topical drug SAR 1118 for the treatment of dry eye syndrome. The financing was led by Sofinnova Ventures and was backed by Rho Ventures and existing investors Alta Partners and Clarus Venture Partners.

SAR 1118 is a small molecule antagonist of the integrin, lymphocyte function-associated antigen-1 (LFA-1, or CD11a/CD18), which SARcode is developing for a range of ophthalmic indications including dry eye syndrome and diabetic macular edema.  The drug is designed to block LFA-1 on leukocytes from binding to its cognate ligand ICAM-1, which is central to lymphocytic adhesion, migration, proliferation, and cytokine release in cellular-mediated inflammationn. Phase III trials evaluating SAR 1118 for the dry eye syndrome indication are projected to start before the end of 2012.

A Phase II study in 230 patients with dry eye disease showed treatment with SAR 1118 led to increased tear production within two weeks and dose-dependent improvements in visual-related function at 12 weeks, including ability to read, drive at night, use a computer, and watch TV.

“In the U.S. alone, the current dry eye market potential is over $1 billion,” claims Quinton Oswald, SARcode CEO. “This is expected to grow substantially in the next decade due to an aging population and increased incidence of type 2 diabetes, both of which contribute to high rates of dry eye disease. There is clearly a large opportunity to develop therapeutic agents that can rapidly treat the signs of dry eye and improve symptomatic visual-related quality of life.”

The ophthalmic solution formulation of SAR 1118 is separately undergoing Phase I evaluation in the treatment of posterior segment diseases. Additionally, preclinical feasibility and pharmacokinetics studies are in progress with a sustained-release intraocular formulation of SAR 118 for the potential long-term treatment of ocular inflammatory disease. A dermatologic formulation of SAR 1118 is also in development as an alternative to long-term topical steroids or calcineurin inhibitors for the treatment of atopic dermatitis and psoriasis.

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