Diepenbeek (Belgium), September 6, 2011 - Amakem NV today announced it has raised €18m with a syndicate of leading life sciences investors to advance its ophthalmology drug development portfolio and progress its lead candidate, AMA0076 for glaucoma, to clinical proof of concept. The Series A round was led by Forbion Capital Partners and also included Crédit Agricole Private Equity, Vesalius BioCapital, as well as the existing investors LRM, PMV and Life Sciences Research Partners.
AMA0076 is a novel, highly potent Rho Kinase (ROCK) inhibitor for the treatment of glaucoma, a condition which damages the optic nerve resulting in vision loss and ultimately blindness. AMA0076 has been proven in preclinical models to be highly effective in reducing intraocular pressure (IOP), a major factor in glaucoma, and to avoid important side effects such as hyperemia. Hyperemia, also known as ‘red eye’, results from excess blood flow in vessels in the white of the eye and is a distressing and dose limiting side effect for patients.
This novel kinase inhibitor has been developed using Amakem’s proprietary ‘Localized Drug Action’ platform. The principle is to treat a specific organ with a locally administered drug which is then deactivated before it can reach other organs or tissues. By limiting or avoiding systemic exposure, any potential side effects in non-target organs can be reduced. This approach can be applied to a wide range of kinase inhibitors in indications where local administration is viable: eye, lungs, skin, GI tract, ears and via local injections. In addition to AMA0076 in glaucoma, Amakem has demonstrated proof-of-concept with other ROCK inhibitors in advanced models of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and asthma.
Amakem’s primary focus is on eye diseases. As well as glaucoma, the Company is exploring the development of additional compounds targeting other eye diseases and has initiated several collaborations, including the Ophthalmology Research Center of the University Leuven Hospital on several other ophthalmic indications.
Jack Elands, CEO of Amakem, said: “Since Amakem’s foundation in 2010, we have strongly advanced our Localized Drug Action platform and, in AMA0076, have developed a highly promising candidate for the treatment of one of the most important eye diseases. Existing treatments for glaucoma are not effective for all patients and other ROCK inhibitors in development have shown dose-limiting side effects, particularly hyperemia. This substantial fundraising from experienced investors reflects the promise of our approach and will enable us to make real progress by advancing our lead candidate through to clinical proof-of-concept.”
Christina Takke, Partner at Forbion Capital Partners, said: “Amakem is well positioned to develop novel drugs that will have a major impact in the treatment of ophthalmic diseases. We are impressed by how quickly Amakem has built a promising pipeline of products that await clinical validation. We are delighted to have led this financing round and to have assembled an impressive international syndicate to support the Company in its next phase of development.”
Nico Vandervelpen, head of Life Sciences at LRM said: “Kinases are crucial mediators of many disease pathways but they are found throughout the body presenting a significant risk of toxicity unless systemic exposure is controlled. Amakem’s technology addresses this problem and is ideally suited for generating novel new drug candidates for local application, and particularly in eye disease. Amakem matches the quality of science with the experience of its management team and we look forward to continuing to work with them as they bring forward new treatments for a number of very important diseases.”
In connection with this financing round Christina Takke (Forbion Capital Partners), Emmanuelle Coutanceau (Crédit Agricole Private Equity) and Gaston Matthyssens (Vesalius BioCapital) will join Amakem’s Board of Directors. Geert-Jan Mulder (Forbion Capital Partners) and Kenneth Wils (PMV/Vinnof) will join the board as observers. Chris Buyse (Life Sciences Research Partners and CFO at Thrombogenics) who has been the company’s Chairman during its successful first phase will step down and Michael Palfreyman will take his place.