Eyevance Pharmaceuticals Acquires Worldwide Rights to NEXAGON«

02 October 2018

FORT WORTH, Texas, Oct. 2, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Eyevance Pharmaceuticals, a Fort Worth-based pharmaceutical company committed to developing and commercializing innovative and impactful ophthalmic products, today announced a worldwide licensing agreement with OcuNexus Therapeutics for NEXAGON®, a 30-base antisense oligomer being developed for the orphan indication of persistent corneal epithelial defect (PED) nonresponsive to standard of care.

NEXAGON, is a first in class unmodified antisense oligodeoxynucleotide that inhibits a cell membrane hemichannel forming protein, connexin43 (Cx43).  Cx43 is overexpressed after acute injury or in chronic disease states leading to pathological prematurely open hemichannels, allowing ATP to enter the extracellular space. Extracellular ATP triggers and perpetuates the immune system's inflammasome pathway releasing multiple proinflammatory cytokines resulting in microvascular breakdown, vessel leak and limbal tissue ischemia. NEXAGON inhibits Cx43 overexpression and the inflammatory cascade, re-establishing limbal microvasculature and promoting regeneration of the corneal epithelium. 

"Eyevance is committed to developing and commercializing innovative eye care products. Accordingly, our acquisition of NEXAGON from OcuNexus represents a landmark deal for our growing organization," commented Jerry St. Peter, Chief Executive Officer and Director, Eyevance. "NEXAGON is a unique product candidate that, if successfully developed, stands to benefit an underserved patient population. We look forward to executing our next phase of clinical development as we continue to build a legacy of innovation in ophthalmics."

"We are very excited to have obtained this opportunity, not only to potentially provide a future treatment for this orphan condition, but also the prospect to become a frontrunner in development of an antisense technology treatment modality for the anterior segment." commented Mark C. Jasek, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer, Eyevance.  As part of its plan to develop NEXAGON, Eyevance is currently funding a pivotal clinical trial with an anticipated start date of Q1 2019. 

"Persistent epithelial defect is a serious condition that significantly diminishes quality of life," commented Victor L. Perez, MD, Professor of Ophthalmology, Director of Ocular Immunology, Duke University School of Medicine. "A product that addresses the disease pathology at a genetic level, would provide an excellent, much-needed addition to our treatment paradigm for these nonresponsive PED patients. I look forward to following NEXAGON's clinical development and hope to see favorable results following future clinical trials."

OcuNexus is excited that the first ophthalmic drug in development targeting Cx43 and the inflammasome pathway of inflammation has been acquired by the seasoned ophthalmic team at Eyevance to treat patients with severe trauma that in many cases, despite the best standard of care, will lose vision. "This technology heralds a landmark event for OcuNexus and importantly, if successful in the clinic, a new era of transformationally treating microvascular disease upstream from other technologies by inhibiting the inflammasome" commented Brian Levy OD, MSc., Chief Executive Officer, OcuNexus Therapeutics.

About Persistent Corneal Epithelial Defect 
Persistent corneal epithelial defects are a loss of the corneal epithelium, the tissue covering the front of the cornea. Corneal epithelial defects can be caused by several factors, including (among others) chemical and thermal burns, mechanical trauma, exposure, topical anesthetic abuse, limbal cell deficiency, and systemic disorders. Patients with persistent corneal epithelial defect typically suffer from a pathology that can lead to significant impairment of vision and in some cases loss of the eye.

About Eyevance Pharmaceuticals 
Eyevance Pharmaceuticals is a Fort Worth-based company committed to developing and commercializing innovative and impactful ophthalmic products that enable optimal vision and better quality of life for all patients. Eyevance seeks to establish a portfolio of products that address significant unmet needs, including rare and orphan conditions, while also focusing on products with a legacy of proven safety and efficacy. 

Recently, Eyevance acquired exclusive rights to market and commercialize ZERVIATE™ (cetirizine ophthalmic solution) 0.24% within the United States from Nicox, Inc. and FRESHKOTE® - a family of preservative free lubricant eye drops from Focus Laboratories, Inc.

For more information, visit http://eyevance.com.

About OcuNexus 
OcuNexus therapeutics is a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company developing highly differentiated drug candidates based upon novel connexin43 hemichannel modulation mechanisms. OcuNexus has developed potential upstream treatments for multiple front- and back-of-the-eye diseases and disorders with high unmet needs. The company's technologies are expected to be transferable to other acute and chronic disease indications involving pathological connexin43 hemichannel overexpression and assembly of inflammasomes.

For more information, visit https://ocunexus.com/.

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