Inotek Snares $21M, Stares Down Aerie in Glaucoma Drug Race

9/30/13Follow @benthefidler

Aerie Pharmaceuticals jumped into the IPO queue a few weeks ago to fund a push for a group of glaucoma drugs. But Lexington, MA-based Inotek Pharmaceuticals is showing Aerie isn’t the only small, privately held company looking to break into one of the biggest markets for prescription eye drugs.

Inotek has just raised a total of $21 million in equity and debt financing to help push a glaucoma drug known as trabodenoson through a mid-stage clinical trial. Inotek said all of its existing investors, including Devon Park Bioventures, Rho Ventures, Care Capital, Medimmune Investors, and Pitango Venture Capital, took part in the $14 million equity financing. Inotek also secured $7 million in venture debt from Horizon Technology Finance Corp. to help with the effort. Inotek’s executive VP and chief scientific officer William McVicar says that as part of the debt financing, Horizon, a new investor, will get warrants for a piece of equity in the company, should Inotek be sold.

With the new round of funding, Inotek has raised about $111 million from venture investors since inception, according to McVicar.

Inotek wants to find a niche in the market for glaucoma, a condition in which fluid builds up inside the eye and puts pressure on, and eventually damages, the optic nerve. This can cause patients to gradually lose their vision and eventually go blind if the condition isn’t treated.

Patients with glaucoma are usually prescribed eye drops known as prostaglandin analogues (PGAs), many of which are generic. They can also end up on one of several other classes of eye drops, such as beta blockers or adrenergic agonists, that are used to either boost the effects of PGAs or as an alternative therapy. All of these drugs work by either slowing down the eye’s rate of fluid production or helping fluid leave the eye through its main drain (the trabecular meshwork) or secondary drain (the uveoscleral pathway), which helps relieve the pressure building up in the eye.

But even while PGAs such as latanoprost—the most commonly prescribed of the group—help the eye drain itself, they don’t directly target the trabecular meshwork, the diseased tissue experts say is responsible for the fluid buildup.

Inotek is one of at least two companies—the other being Bedminster, NJ-based Aerie—creating a drug that does. (A third, Belgium-based Anakem Therapeutics, has an experimental drug in pre-clinical development.) Both Aerie and Inotek are trying to show that, at minimum, this approach can serve as an add-on therapy to PGAs like latanoprost (Xalatan), because beta blockers and others have … Next Page »

Ben Fidler is Xconomy's Deputy Biotechnology Editor. You can e-mail him at bfidler@xconomy.com Follow @benthefidler

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