“People with retinal diseases represent a large portion of our population, and this area didn’t exist years ago, but now blindness and retinal and ocular disorders are a major problem,” said Noah Beerman, president and CEO of RXi, in an in-PharmaTechnologist phone interview.
“There is no other novel therapeutic that I’m aware of that is developed specifically to treat a disease in the eye, non-invasively and without an injection, so we’re not repositioning [a treatment],” added Stephen From, president and CEO of EyeGate Pharma.
He described the needle-free ocular delivery method as “a very exciting development for the ophthalmology community,” and according to him, more traditional methods of delivering drugs targeted to treat retinal diseases can only be delivered by intra-vitreal injection, which come with “warnings of precaution, and present some safety issues which can be very nasty.”
From claims that delivering RNAi using the EyeGate II system eliminates the need for ocular injections, as well as the risks associated with them. This is largely down to RNAi’s ability to “block disease causing proteins,” adds Beerman.
RNAi addresses any target
The drug works “upstream from traditional pharmaceuticals which work on proteins or receptors,” said Beerman, adding that as 30,000 genes are “’undruggable’, traditional small molecules are unable to target them, but RNAi technology works on silencing the block on disease causing proteins before they are produced.” This, the company say allows RNA interference technology to address any target.
Under the collaboration between the two companies, EyeGate’s iontophoresis technology will be used to deliver RXi’s sd-rxRNA compounds to the eye in preclinical models, using a low-level electrical current.
Preclinical studies on mice have shown that once RXi’s proprietary RXAi compound has accessed retinal cells, the drug candidate can silence disease causing genes after 24 hours of having entered the eye, addressing “100 per cent of retinal disease targets, said Beerman.
Expressing an interest in pursuing new approaches for the delivery of RNAI to the eye, Beerman is hopeful that work will continue in developing delivery methods with EyeGate. “Our goal as a company is to develop a next generation drug to treat retinal disorders,” he said.
This sentiment was echoed by From, who admitted EyeGate has been interested in collaborating with RXi for some time. “It made sense to partner with experts in this field,” he said, adding “combining our EyeGate II system with RXI’s RNAi compounds really benefits EyeGate in developing something in this class.”