Ray Therapeutics – a leading optogenetics company – announced an upsized oversubscribed $100 million Series A financing round led by Novo Holdings A/S and joined by Deerfield Management, Norwest Venture Partners, Platanus, MRL Ventures Fund (the therapeutics-focused corporate venture fund of Merck & Co) and existing investor 4BIO Capital. The funding will advance multiple programs targeting blinding diseases of the eye through clinical development.
Visual optogenetics is known as a therapeutic modality that uses gene therapy to deliver a light-sensitive protein to cells in the retina. And light entering the eye can then stimulate these cells to produce a visual signal that is sent to the brain. Ray Therapeutics developed an optogenetic platform to bioengineer a next-generation pipeline of genotype-independent therapeutics for vision restoration in multiple retinal diseases where the normal light-sensing cells (photoreceptors) are lost (examples: retinitis pigmentosa, other inherited retinal dystrophies and macular degeneration). The company’s lead candidate, RTx-015, is expected to begin first-in-human clinical trials shortly.
In connection with the funding, Ray Camahort, Ph.D., Partner in the Venture Investments group at Novo Holdings, Tiba Aynechi, Ph.D. General Partner, Norwest Venture Partners, and Hannah Chang, M.D., Ph.D., Managing Director, Platanus, will join Sean Ainsworth, Dima Kuzmin, Ph.D., and Paul Bresge on the Board of Directors at Ray Therapeutics. Brian Chow Ph.D., Principal at Deerfield, and Jason Ruth Ph.D., Partner, MRL Ventures Fund, will join as Board Observers.
“This Series A financing marks a significant milestone in our mission to address the urgent unmet medical need of patients with blinding diseases. We are incredibly grateful for the support of 4BIO Capital, our other early investors and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) who have been instrumental in our growth. We are excited by this new funding, led by Novo Holdings, with a top-tier investor syndicate which will accelerate our pipeline of potential first-in-class optogenetic gene therapies for patients.”
— Paul Bresge, CEO & Co-Founder, Ray Therapeutics
“Ray Therapeutics is developing the world’s first bioengineered optogenetic therapies optimized for human vision, with the potential to restore both higher visual function and quality of life to blind patients, without the need for light enhancing devices. The company’s next-generation technology platform, strong preclinical data, and world-class genetic medicines team position them as leaders in developing potential best-in-class vision restorative therapeutics, which aligns with Novo Holdings’ purpose to improve people’s health.
— Ray Camahort, Ph.D., Partner in the Venture Investments group at Novo Holdings
“We have been convinced of the significant potential of Ray Therapeutics’ groundbreaking optogenetic approach right from the start, and in the short period of time following our seed investment in 2021, they have made remarkable progress. With the team’s proven track record in developing regenerative medicines for ophthalmology indications and the mutation-independent nature of their approach, these novel gene therapies have the potential to reach more patients with a one-time intravitreal injection that could last a lifetime. We are happy to continue supporting the company through this financing round and beyond and look forward to their continued success and the transformative impact that this technology will have on patients’ lives.”
— Dima Kuzmin, Ph.D., Managing Partner at 4BIO Capital
“Ray Therapeutics’ optogenetic gene therapies have the potential to address a significant unmet need by using light-sensitive proteins to restore visual function in damaged retinal cells. RTx-015 has shown impressive results in preclinical studies and offers hope to patients who currently have limited to no treatment options with retinitis pigmentosa and other inherited retinal degenerations. These novel therapies could significantly improve the lives of individuals with blinding disorders, by potentially restoring vision with the power of optogenetics.”
— Jeffrey Heier, M.D., the Director of the Vitreoretinal Service and Director of Retina Research at Ophthalmic Consultants of Boston
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