Opus Genetics secures $1.7M in funding from foundation

The Foundation Fighting Blindness has awarded Opus Genetics, a Research Triangle Park drug development startup focused on inherited diseases of the retina, $1.7 million in funding to help advance two preclinical therapy candidates.

Opus said the new funding will accelerate the development of therapies for two inherited retinal diseases, which are genetic disorders that can lead to blindness or severe vision loss.Opus logo

The nonprofit foundation’s award has two components:

  • A $1 million Translational Research Acceleration Program award to support a preclinical safety study for a gene therapy vector Opus is developing. The therapy targets a condition known as RHO-adRP (rhodopsin-mediated autosomal dominant retinitis pigmentosa), one of the more common inherited retinal diseases, impacting about one in 51,000 people worldwide.
  • $700,000 in project-based and operational funding for preclinical development of a treatment for another specific type of retinitis pigmentosa, which is a condition that changes how the retina responds to light. Patients typically lose parts of their vision over time without becoming totally blind.

“This $1.7 million funding infusion makes a significant impact to help accelerate the development of these two preclinical candidates,” Opus CEO Ben Yerxa, Ph.D., said in a news release. Yerxa is a member of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center’s board of directors.

The company is planning a preclinical safety study at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine for its RHO-adRP therapy, using the school’s canine animal model. Opus said it expects this to be the final preclinical study before the therapy enters clinical trials.

For the other retinitis pigmentosa therapy candidate, the company plans to collaborate with the foundation on testing in an established animal model of the disease and to conduct early safety assessments in larger animals. The therapy targets retinitis pigmentosa that results from mutations in the MERTK gene.

The Maryland-based Foundation Fighting Blindness has an existing relationship with Opus. In September 2021 its venture capital arm, the Retinal Degeneration Fund, invested $19 million in seed funding to help launch the company. Last year Opus raised an additional $4.5 million from investors.

“In collaboration with Opus, we’re propelling forward promising clinical candidate programs with the potential to revolutionize the lives of those affected by these challenging conditions,” said Jason Menzo, the foundation’s CEO.

Kyle Marshall, NCBiotech Writer
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