Australian and Israeli-based biotech startup Azura Ophthalmics has raised $US16 million ($20 million) to fund treatments for a disease many in the startup world may not be aware of, but which affects 300 million people worldwide: meibomian gland dysfunction, a leading cause of dry eye disease.
Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) is responsible for at least 70 percent of dry eye cases, according to Azura Opthalmics chief executive Marc Gleeson, who says there are currently no pharmaceutical treatments available for this uncomfortable condition.
The meibomian gland produces a lipid that protects the eyeball with a thin film, and plays an integral role in vision quality, according to Gleeson. In post-menopausal women and people with autoimmune deficiency, however, the eye’s surface can often deteriorate as individuals age, causing discomfort and damage to the eye.
“We believe we are the only company developing a pharmacological agent to treat this,” Gleeson tells StartupSmart.
“A lot of research to date has been associated with the inflammation associated with the end stage [of MGD], but we are targeting the upstream so we can prevent the downstream effects,” he explains.
The startup will use the $20 million raised to conduct clinical trials in Australia for a pharmacological product that will treat MGD by repairing dysfunctional meibomian glands. The trial will be conducted with 120 MGD patients in collaboration with the University of New South Wales and the University of Melbourne, as Azura looks to get the product approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The startup raised the funding from Brandon Capital’s Medical Research Commercialisation Fund (MRCF), TPG Biotech, OrbiMed and US family fund Ganot Capital, after previously raising $US1.2 million in a Series A round in 2014 from Ganot Capital and Israel’s Elron Industries, Gleeson says.
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