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Arctic Vision sets sights on China’s innovation gap in ophthalmology

A veteran of MNCs, Eddy Wu launches biotech to in-license and discover eye therapies

A veteran of MNCs, Eddy Wu launches Shanghai-based Arctic Vision to build a Chinese ophthalmology portfolio through licensing deals, in-house development and M&A.

Aug 29, 2020 | 1:24 AM GMT

After spending about a decade developing ophthalmology drugs for Western biopharmas, Eddy Wu has formed a company to address the treatment gaps for eye diseases in China. Arctic Vision secured $32 million in series A funding in July and in-licensed two products this year, with a goal of bringing R&D capabilities in-house and expanding into gene therapy.

“We would like to have a de-risked portfolio to make sure that we can have good talent join us, and to make sure we could build infrastructure and fund-raise,” said Wu, who is CEO of Arctic Vision Biotechnology Co. Ltd.  “Once we have the foundation with around six products, then we will start to build some R&D in-house capabilities.”

Arctic Vision launched in May 2019 after being incubated by Nan Fung Life Sciences and Pivotal China. Both firms invested in the biotech’s series A round, which Morningside Ventures led.

Wu told BioCentury that China lags other countries in innovative therapies for ophthalmology. For example, the only treatment for dry eye disease is artificial tears, and there is no on-label, first-line treatment for uveitis, Wu said.

According to Wu, drug development for ophthalmic indications fell behind in China for two reasons. First, historical regulatory bottlenecks  in the country meant that it could take about eight years to launch a drug. “MNCs lost patience,” he said.

And second, for local companies, other fields such as oncology, generics and biosimilars were more attractive financially.

“It was a lack of input from outside China, and a lack of in-house incubation,” Wu said.

Wu left liver diseases company Terns Pharmaceuticals Inc., where he was a VP, to follow his “personal passion” of ophthalmology and form Arctic Vision.

Before he joined San Francisco Bay Area-based Terns, Wu was executive director of medical and scientific affairs of China operations at Allergan Inc. in 2015-17, and previously spent nine years at Novartis AG (NYSE:NVS; SIX:NOVN), most recently as medial director for Asia Pacific, Middle East and African Countries. There, he helped develop Lucentis ranibizumab, which Wu said he saw “really impacting quality of life.” The drug is approved in the U.S. and EU to treat several eye diseases including wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic macular edema (DME) and myopic choroidal neovascularization. 

Arctic Vision’s team includes ophthalmology vet Qing Liu, who is VP of clinical and regulatory affairs. She was head of clinical development and medical affairs in greater China for Alcon Inc. (SIX:ALC; NYSE:ALC), and previously was Allergan’s head of China eye care medical affairs in 2015-16.

To build a portfolio of innovative eye disease therapies, Arctic Vision is starting by in-licensing products for diseases with few to no treatment options in China and have a relatively low-risk profile.

The company has closed two deals this year, and plans to have four to six products in-licensed by year-end.

In March, Arctic Vision gained an exclusive license to Xipere from Clearside Biomedical Inc. (NASDAQ:CLSD) in China, including Hong Kong and Macau, South Korea and Taiwan. The therapy, which the company is developing for uveitis as ARVN001, is a triamcinolone acetonide suprachoroidal injectable suspension.  Arctic Vision can explore additional indications, such as diabetic macular edema, with Clearside’s consent.

Clearside received $4 million up front and is eligible for $31.5 million in milestones, plus tiered 10-12% royalties.

Clearside plans to resubmit an NDA to FDA next quarter, and Arctic Vision aims to submit an IND in China by year-end.

Arctic Vision closed its second deal in August, obtaining an exclusive license in the same territories to two eye therapies from Eyenovia Inc. (NASDAQ:EYEN), developed with that company’s microdosing technology platform.

Arctic Vision has rights to develop and commercialize MicroPine atropine ophthalmic solution to treat progressive myopia, and MicroLine pilocarpine ophthalmic solution to treat presbyopia.

Eyenovia is eligible for $45.75 million in upfront and milestone payments.

Wu said he is exploring two avenues to build Arctic Vision’s in-house R&D capabilities: hiring a CSO and recruiting a scientific team, and via M&A.

Wu wants Arctic Vision to develop at least one gene therapy. He said the company is in talks with an undisclosed university to collaborate on such a program.

COMPANY PROFILE
Arctic Vision Biotechnology Co. Ltd.
Shanghai, China
Technology: Ophthalmology therapies
Origin of technology: In-licensed from Clearside Biomedical Inc., Eyenovia Inc.
Disease focus: Ophthalmology
Clinical status: Clinical
Founded: May 2019 by Eddy Wu
University collaborators: None
Corporate partners: Clearside Biomedical Inc. (NASDAQ:CLSD), Eyenovia Inc. (NASDAQ:EYEN)
Number of employees: About 20
Funds raised: $32 million
Investors: Nan Fung Life Sciences, Pivotal China, Morningside Ventures
CEO: Eddy Wu
Patents: Undisclosed

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