Opus Genetics Lands $19M Seed Funding to Advance Blindness Treatments
The Retinal Degeneration Fund (RD Fund) is spinning out its own biotech startup aiming at curing blindness after landing $19 million in seed financing.
Opus Genetics, of Raleigh, is the first company “internally conceived and launched” by the fund, a venture arm of the Foundation Fighting Blindness, and will be headquartered in Raleigh.
It will advance the preclinical research work of its scientific co-founders: University of Pennsylvania’s Jean Bennett, M.D., Ph.D., and Junwei Sun; and Harvard Medical School’s Eric Pierce, M.D., Ph.D.
“Opus is a first-of-its-kind model for patient-focused therapeutic development,” said Ben Yerxa, Ph.D., CEO of the Foundation and the RD Fund, and acting CEO of Opus.
“[It] is uniquely positioned to bring experts, resources and patients together to efficiently advance ocular gene therapies for small groups of patients that to date have been neglected.”
The company’s lead programs are licensed from the University of Pennsylvania and will focus on treatments to address mutations in genes that cause different forms of Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA).
LCA is a group of rare inherited retinal diseases that typically present in infancy and are characterized by degeneration of photoreceptors, the cells in the retina that make vision possible.
Opus’s lead program, OPGx-001, is designed to address mutations in the LCA5 gene, which encodes the lebercilin protein. LCA5is one of the most severe forms of LCA, and affects approximately one in 1.7million people.
The company’s second program, OPGx-002, will focus on restoring protein expression and halting functional deterioration in patients with retinal dystrophy caused by mutations in the retinal dehydrogenase (RDH12) gene (LCA13), which affects one in 288,000 people.
Recent preclinical data have demonstrated the potential for both of these novel approaches to restore structure and function.
Opus said it expects to file an IND for its OPGx-001 program in early 2022 and enter the clinic in mid-2022.
In addition to Yerxa, the company is co-founded and managed by Rusty Kelley, Ph.D., Peter Ginsberg, and Jason Menzo, who also form the management team of the RD Fund. The board for Opus is comprised of Yerxa, Kelley and Bennett.