Eye On the Cure Research News

Jul 9, 2019

SparingVision Gets EU Funding Boost for Development of Cross-Cutting Gene Therapy

A clinical trial for the treatment, designed to preserve cone photoreceptors, is planned in the US and Europe in 2020.

SparingVision, a French biotechnology company developing therapies for retinal degenerative diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa (RP), has received €2.5 million in funding from the European EIC Accelerator program, which is providing support for innovative, small- and medium-sized businesses in the European Union. The funding will speed clinical and regulatory development for SparingVision’s emerging, cross-cutting gene therapy designed to preserve cone photoreceptors, thereby saving vision, in people with many forms of RP. The company plans to initiate a clinical trial for the treatment in the US and Europe in 2020. 

The Foundation Fighting Blindness has committed funding of up to €7 million for development of the gene therapy through its RD Fund, a venture philanthropy fund for treatments that are moving toward, or in, early clinical development. 

We are very pleased with SparingVision’s progress in advancing its retinal gene therapy toward a human study. The award from the European EIC Accelerator program provides a significant boost for the treatment’s development

Benjamin Yerxa, PhD, Chief Executive Officer, Foundation Fighting Blindness

“We are very pleased with SparingVision’s progress in advancing its retinal gene therapy toward a human study. The award from the European EIC Accelerator program provides a significant boost for the treatment’s development,” says Benjamin Yerxa, PhD, chief executive officer, Foundation Fighting Blindness.  

SparingVision’s gene therapy leads to the production of rod-derived cone-viability factor (RdCVF), a naturally occurring protein in the retina identified by SparingVision co-founders José Sahel, MD, and Thierry Léveillard, PhD, at the Institut de la Vision. The scientists demonstrated in laboratory studies that RdCVF prevented or slowed the degeneration of cones, the cells in the retina that provide central and color vision and enable people to read, drive, and recognize faces. RdCVF is naturally secreted by rods, the retinal cells that provide night and peripheral vision. 

RP is a genetic condition affecting about two million people worldwide. RP initially affects rods. The progressive loss of rods leads to loss of cones. There are currently no therapies for RP. The retinal disease is usually diagnosed in childhood, progressively leading to legal or total blindness in adulthood. Researchers have identified approximately 80 genes, each of which, when mutated, can cause RP.  

 “Unlike a gene replacement therapy which targets a specific mutated gene, RdCVF is designed to work independent of the defective gene. That means RdCVF has the potential to save vision for a broad range of people with RP,” says Dr. Yerxa.