U.K. firm NightstaRx raised $45 million in a Series C financing round to support continued clinical development of its pipeline of retinal gene therapies, including a pending Phase III study with lead candidate NSR-REP1 for treating choroideremia. The new funds will also be used to support an ongoing Phase I/II study with NSR-RPGR in patients with X-linked retinitis pigmentosa (RP), and a proposed Phase I/II trial with a gene therapy product targeting an inherited form of macular dystrophy. Nightstar projects starting the macular dystrophy clinical trial during late 2018.
Investors in the Series C round included Nightstar’s existing investors Syncona and New Enterprise Associates (NEA) and new investors Wellington Management Company and Redmile Group. “As an original investor in Nightstar, our goal from day one was to build a global gene therapy leader with the capability of developing multiple programs for inherited retinal diseases,” commented Chris Hollowood, Ph.D., chairman of the board of Nightstar and chief investment officer of Syncona, which is funded by The Wellcome Trust. We welcome Wellington Management and Redmile Group as investors and look forward to working with them and NEA to fulfill Nightstar’s potential.”
Founded in 2014 by researchers at the University of Oxford, Nightstar is developing a pipeline of one-time potentially curative treatments for rare inherited retinal diseases. Lead candidate NSR-REP1 is an adeno-associated virus (AAV) vector-based gene therapy in development for treating choroideremia, a rare X-linked inherited retinal dystrophy for which there are currently no disease-modifying therapies. The AAV vector is administered by injection under the retina, using standard surgical procedures performed under local anesthetic. Nightstar says a Phase I/II study carried out by the University of Oxford confirmed long-term benefits of the treatment including vision improvement or stabilization.
The firm’s AAV-vector-based NSR-RPGR gene therapy for X-linked RP is designed to deliver a normal copy of the RP GTPase regulator (RPGR) gene, which Nightstar says is mutated in more than 70% of cases of X-linked RP. The procedure similarly involves injecting the gene-carrying vector under the retina. The ongoing Phase I/II study with NSR-RPGR was started in March.
Nightstar has ongoing collaborations with the University of Oxford, the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, and the Institute for Ophthalmic Research, Tübingen University Hospital. In February, the firm inked a collaboration with Netherlands-based Preceyes to develop a subretinal drug delivery technology based on the latter’s high-precision robotic device for ocular surgery.