Allergan Acquisition Advances Eye Care Treatments

Allergan acquired RetroSense Therapeutics and its gene therapy program for eye diseases.

Despite the resistance from prospective health insurer mergers, Allergan has joined the likes of Pfizer as they acquired RetroSense Therapeutics, a gene therapy company focused on improving vision in patients with blindness.

The $60 million merger includes RetroSense’s RST-001 approach for the treatment of retinitis pigmentosa (RP), according to Allergan.

“The acquisition of RetroSense and its RST-001 program builds on Allergan's deep commitment to eye care, and our focus on investing in game-changing innovation for retinal conditions, including Retinitis Pigmentosa, where patients desperately need treatment options,” said Brent Saunders, CEO and president of Allergan.

RP is a group of rare genetic disorders characterized by vision loss and night vision problems, and can lead to central vision loss and blindness. There are currently no approved treatments for the disease.

The RST-001 approach is a first-in-class gene therapy application of optogenetics to the retina where rod and cone receptors have degenerated. The treatment, which introduces light sensitivity to the retina, received Orphan Drug Designation by the FDA in 2014.

“The RST-001 program and its optogenetic gene therapy approach could be a real breakthrough in the treatment of unmet needs across a host of retinal conditions, including RP,” said David Nicholson, chief research and development officer, Allergan. “The team at Allergan is excited by the prospect of advancing an entirely new approach in the treatment of retinal diseases, and this technology is highly complementary to our ongoing development programs in this critical treatment area.”

The RST-001 optogenetic technique uses a photosensitivity gene to create new photosensors in retinal ganglion cells in order to restore vision. The safety of RST-001 has been examined in a phase 1/2a trial, which concluded the treatment was safe.

“With its deep commitment to eye care, strong eye care professional community network, and its commitment to advancing innovation across retinal conditions, Allergan was the most compelling partner and the best strategic fit to advance the development of RST-001 and maximize the potential for this technology platform,” said Sean Ainsworth, former CEO of RetroSense Therapeutics. “The addition of RST-001 to Allergan's world-class eye care development and commercialization organization will position this potentially revolutionary technology to be used by ophthalmology professionals to improve the treatment of patients with retinal diseases around the world.”