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Envisia Gets $16.5M More to Back Extended-Release Eye Drugs

Xconomy Raleigh-Durham — 

Investors in Envisia Therapeutics are pumping $16.5 million more into the eye drug developer to carry the company’s lead candidate, a potential glaucoma treatment, through mid-stage clinical trials.

Envisia’s new financing adds to the $25 million Series A round the Research Triangle Park, NC-based company initially raised in 2013. At that time, Envisia was spun out of nanotechnology company Liquidia Technologies, also based in RTP. The Series A investors include Canaan Partners, New Enterprise Associates, Pappas Ventures, Morningside Technology Ventures, and Wakefield Group.

According to securities filings, Envisia has raised $10.1 million of the $16.5 million in new financing. The filings say that the total sold includes the value of cancelled debt financing totaling $4.9 million. Last fall, Envisia raised just shy of $5 million in a securities offering that included debt and warrants, filings show.

Rather than developing a new drug, Envisia is trying to administer an old one more effectively. The company’s lead candidate, ENV515, uses nanoparticles to deliver drugs known as prostaglandin analogues (PGAs). PGAs are eye drops and the standard of care for glaucoma, a condition in which the eye’s drainage systems get clogged up with fluid, leading to pressure and ultimately damage to the optic nerve. PGAs work by reducing that pressure. Envisia’s ENV515 is a biodegradable nanoparticle formulation of the generic PGA travoprost that is meant to last longer than typical PGAs. Because PGAs must be taken every day, chronically, patient compliance with these drugs is tougher.

The Envisia nanoparticles are made using technology from Liquidia, which has developed a way to manufacture nanoparticles of particular sizes and shapes. Those customized nanoparticles can then be used to help deliver drugs into the body. Liquidia, which licensed its technology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has focused on vaccines.

Envisia is not the only company trying to use technology to improve PGAs. Valeant Pharmaceutical’s (NYSE: VRX) Bausch + Lomb division has filed for FDA approval of a drug that adds a nitric oxide component to the most commonly prescribed PGA, latanoprost (Xalatan). This drug was developed as a once a day eye drop. Bedford, MA-based Ocular Therapeutix (NASDAQ: OCUL) is using its own delivery technology to develop an extended-release form of travoprost, and plans to start Phase 3 trials of that drug, known as OTX-TP, later this year.

Envisia aims to show that a single dose of ENV515 can help lower eye pressure for more than six months. The company began Phase 2 clinical trials of ENV515 last year, and now says it expects to produce some interim data from those studies in May.

The new cash will also support Envisia’s work on two other prospective treatments for diabetic macular edema (ENV1105) and age-related macular degeneration (ENV1305). ENV1105 should begin clinical trials in the first half of 2017, while ENV1305 is further behind.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Michael Gil via a Creative Commons license.