Eye diseases can have a devastating effect on our quality of life. Age-related macular degeneration, AMD, is among the most common causes of vision loss. In its most aggressive form, neovascular AMD, the disease disrupts sharp, central vision, causing the affected individual to gradually become incapable of performing everyday tasks. Neovascular AMD typically occurs in individuals aged above 55 years, and it's estimated that around 300 million people will have the disease within 2040. The disease is largely driven by a protein called VEGF. Modern treatment consists of injecting antibodies that bind to VEGF directly into the eye of the patient. This slows disease progression, but does not cure the disease, and repeated injections throughout life are often necessary to keep the disease at bay. While this treatment helps many, up to 4 out of 10 patients experience that it does not suffice, and they gradually loose their vision. For these patients, the disease is driven by other proteins than VEGF. There are no approved treatments today likely to help those that do not respond to VEGF antibodies.
Authera seeks to develop an antibody directed against a new therapeutic target in neovascular AMD. They will do so in collaboration with international pharmaceutical industry, the Norwegian company Curida Diatec, eye doctors at Oslo University Hospital and with the Norwegian Association of the Blind and Partially Sighted. The project aims to develop methodology for production of therapeutic candidate molecules, and to make an antibody that shows a therapeutic effect in disease models. If successful, the project will enable development of a new, Norwegian therapeutic that can be used to effectively treat patients that as of today have no effective treatment.
Neovascular age-related macular degeneration (nAMD) is a debilitating eye disease that disrupts our central vision, leading to greatly reduced quality of life and ability to participate in everyday activities. It is among the leading causes of blindness in Western countries, and once diagnosed, patients require often life-long treatment by injection of antibodies directly into the eye every 4-16 weeks. The issue with current treatment is that all available therapeutics target vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). VEGF drives the disease, and blocking its activity with antibodies is effective for many. However, the disease may also undergo pathological switching to other signalling pathways, and be driven by inflammatory processes upstream of VEGF induction. This results in up to 40 % of patients are sub-optimal responders and experience concurrent loss of vision. To be able to treat these patients, there is a challenge to identify other disease driving targets for therapeutic intervention, and to generate effective molecules to target these disease drivers.
Authera is a biotechnology company spun out from the academic environment at Oslo University Hospital and the University of Oslo. In this project, Authera partners with both clinicians and national and international industry to develop, manufacture and validate the efficacy of a new antibody in disease modelling studies. By doing so, Authera will establish connections between a European industrial drug discovery platform and the Norwegian biotechnology scene, which will enable early-stage development and manufacturing of drug candidates. When completed, the project will pave the way for clinical studies with the goal of offering new treatment to patients who as of today have none.