Oculis, a Swiss developer of ophthalmic drugs, has raised CHF 15.5 million (about $15.6 million) in funding. Tekla Capital Management LLC led the round with participation from other investors that included Nan Fung Life Sciences.
Lausanne, Switzerland, January 4th, 2019 – Oculis SA, a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company developing next-generation topical ophthalmic treatments, announces today that it has successfully raised a further CHF15.5 million in an extension of its Series B financing round, announced in January 2018, bringing the total raised to CHF35.5 million. The extension round was led by funds managed by Tekla Capital Management LLC and included Nan Fung Life Sciences, both new investors, as well as Oculis’ current investors.
The funds will be used to expand the company’s portfolio through strategic in-licensing (see below), and to advance the development of its emerging pipeline of novel topical (eye drop) treatments for major ophthalmic diseases. Key among its clinical candidates is OCS-01 (formerly OC-118), currently in clinical trials in patients with Diabetic Macular Edema (DME) and in preparation to enter clinical development for post-surgery ocular inflammation.
Oculis will also use the funds to develop its newly in-licensed asset LME636 from Novartis, a topical anti-TNF alpha antibody – see separate announcement today. Efficacy and safety of LME636 (to be renamed OCS-02) have been evaluated in three clinical trials including controlled studies under IND by Novartis Institute of Biomedical Research. The studies demonstrated a promising profile for treating inflammatory conditions of the anterior segment of the eye, including Dry Eye Disease and offers Oculis the opportunity to address unmet medical needs of patients with potentially the first topical anti-TNF alpha therapy for ophthalmic indications.
In conjunction with this fundraising, Henry Skinner, Ph.D., Senior Vice President at Tekla Capital Management, is joining the Oculis Board of Directors as a Non-Executive Director. Dr. Skinner was formerly Managing Director at Novartis Venture Fund and Executive Director, Head Strategic Alliances at Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research. Prior to this, Dr. Skinner was CEO at SelectX Pharmaceuticals, President and CEO at NeoGenesis Pharmaceuticals and also spent four years at Pfizer in its Technology Acquisitions and Operations group.
At the same time, Stefan J. Sveinsson has stepped down from the Board of Directors.
Dr. Riad Sherif, Chief Executive Officer of Oculis, said: “Oculis is evolving and advancing rapidly. With this new fundraising, adding to the CHF20 million we raised a year ago, we have a strong financial position from which to drive our clinical development programs with OCS-01 and LME636/OCS-02 and to advance our portfolio of innovative candidates designed to address serious ophthalmic indications. We welcome our new investors and are delighted with the continued support of our existing investors as we execute our strategy to build a world-class ophthalmic company.”
Peter Bisgaard, Managing Director at Nan Fung Life Sciences, added: “I, and the team at Nan Fung Life Sciences, have been extremely impressed with vision and progress made by Oculis in building a company with the potential to significantly improve the treatment of ophthalmic diseases. By developing eye-drop treatments for both front- and back-of-eye diseases, Oculis is working to develop safe, effective and comfortable treatments for millions of patients. I look forward to working with the team to contribute towards the Company’s further growth and development.”
Anthony Rosenberg, Chairman at Oculis, commented: “Oculis has made great progress in the past year building a strong organisation and advancing the development of its pipeline. These new funds and the new in-licensed clinical candidate further highlight the significant opportunities for Oculis. On behalf of the Board of Directors, I would also like to welcome Henry to the Board and look forward to his valued insights and guidance as we execute our strategy. I would also like the express our thanks to Stefan for his positive contribution to the Company’s early development.”
Oculis SA is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company whose mission is to develop novel topical treatments (eye drops) for ophthalmic diseases for both back- and front-of-the-eye in order to improve the sight and lives of patients worldwide. These topical treatments represent an unprecedented technical advance for patients with back-of-the-eye diseases that are currently managed only by intra-ocular injections or implants; while topical treatments for front-of-the-eye disease are designed to improve patient outcomes by increasing drug bioavailability, reducing dosing frequency and improving patient compliance.
The company’s leading clinical candidates include OCS-01 (formerly OC-118) and OCS-02 (formerly LME636). OCS-01 is advancing in clinical trial in patients with DME and is in preparation to enter clinical development for post-surgery ocular inflammation. If approved in DME, OCS-01 has the potential to provide a new non-invasive treatment option for DME patients. OCS-02 is a novel topical anti-TNF alpha antibody in Phase II trials in inflammatory eye diseases and was in-licensed from Novartis.
OCS-01 has been developed from Oculis’ solubilizing nanoparticle (SNP) technology, a proprietary platform that enables the formulation of a wide range of drugs as non-invasive topical treatments and enhances their bioavailability in the relevant eye tissues. The Company is leveraging this proprietary technology to generate a pipeline of topical drugs targeting sight-threatening eye diseases.
Oculis has an experienced management team from global ophthalmic companies and is supported by leading international life science investors. Oculis is headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland, with research operations in Reykjavik, Iceland.
To learn more visit www.oculis.com
About Tekla Capital Management
Tekla Capital Management LLC is a registered investment adviser based in Boston, Massachusetts and is the investment adviser for four closed-end funds, Tekla Healthcare Investors, Tekla Life Sciences Investors, Tekla Healthcare Opportunities Fund and Tekla World Healthcare Fund. The Funds predominately invest in the securities of public and private healthcare companies.
About Nan Fung Life Sciences (NFLS)
Nan Fung Life Sciences, part of Nan Fung Group, is a global investment platform focusing on life sciences. Leveraging on Nan Fung Group’s strong capital base and long-term commitment to the area, the company is aimed to become the ideal partner for scientists, entrepreneurs, corporations and investors in the life science space. Through direct investments via Pivotal bioVenture Partners funds (both in US and China) and fund investments covering full spectrum of the industry (including therapeutics, medical devices and diagnostics) and across different development stages, Nan Fung Life Sciences has significant presence in both US and Greater China.