SOUTHAMPTON, England—KalVista Pharmaceuticals, a newSouthampton, United Kingdom-based ophthalmology company, has closed a Series Afinancing round that netted the company £8 million (approximately $13.2 million)from leading investors Novo A/S and SV Life Sciences. KalVista is focused ondeveloping new treatments for diabetic macular edema (DME), which represents aleading cause of vision loss in adults in developed countries.
"I am delighted that KalVista has garnered substantialfinancial support from leading life sciences investors Novo A/S and SV LifeSciences to fund this exciting new business," said Andrew Crockett, CEO ofKalVista, in a press release. "We have an ambitious target to become a leadingcompany focused on the development of novel treatments for DME and believe wehave the team, the expertise, the assets and the approach to achieve thisgoal."
KalVista's aim is to develop novel, small molecule plasmakallikrein inhibitors, which KalVista acquired from Vantia Therapeutics, alongwith all relevant intellectual property. The company's pipeline is targetedtowards intravitreal injection and oral administration routes.
Currently, treatment for DME consists of vascularendothelial growth factor (VEGF) inhibitors. In normal amounts, the proteinVEGF prompts angiogenesis, or the growth of new blood vessels. When it isoverexpressed, however, it can lead to vascular disease in the retina as wellas metastasis of tumors as they take advantage of increased blood supply. Whileintravitreal VEGF inhibitors are undoubtedly effective in minimizing macularedema and increasing visual acuity, not all DME patients respond fully to thisavenue of treatment.
"Diabetic macular edema remains one of the major challengesin ophthalmology, and is a leading cause of visual loss in the developedworld," Dr. Lloyd Paul Aiello, Director of Joslin's Beetham Eye Institute andco-founder of KalVista, said in a press release. "While new advances such asVEGF inhibitors are a breakthrough in treatment, current evidence demonstratesthat a substantial number of patients with DME do not respond fully. I believeKalVista's approach, targeting a novel non-VEGF pathway, could represent afurther important step in treating this condition."
Plasma kallikrein inhibitors represent a new method oftreatment for DME. Plasma kallikrein is a circulating serine protease, one withan attractive amount of potential given the central role it is believed to playin the pathogenesis of DME within diseased retinas. On the company's website,KalVista notes that plasma kallikrein "is thought to be central to thepathological processes taking place within the diseased retina – inflammation,increased retinal vascular permeability and consequent edema, angiogenesis andhemorrhage – and is not essential for normal function or survival." By notbeing pivotal in any normal functions, plasma kallikrein is an ideal targetsince blocking or suppressing it will not affect other processes.
"The exciting discoveries regarding plasma kallikreininhibition and its potential as a new approach to treating DME have created asignificant opportunity," said Graham Boulnois of SV Life Sciences and Chairmanof KalVista's board of directors, in a press release. "We believe that inKalVista we have put in place all the necessary scientific, clinical and drugdiscovery and development expertise, and sufficient funding, to capitalize onthis opportunity and create a highly differentiated and valuable company."
KalVista's Board of directors will include Boulnois asChairman, Martin Edwards of Novo A/S as Non-executive Director and Crockett asCEO.