One French biotech just received approval to test the world's first eye gene therapy that uses absolutely no viral vectors. The company, Eyevensys, was officially given clearance from the French Product Security Regulatory Agency (ANSM) this April to start clinical trials of its EyeCET platform.
Scientists at Eyevensys hope their gene therapy platform will help numerous patients suffering from complex ophthalmic issues. The main therapy this company is working on is called EYS606, which is designed to treat non-infectious uveitis with advanced plasmid encoding technology.
Non-infectious uveitis refers to an inflammation of the uvea, which is located in the middle of the eye. The most common symptoms include eye pain, blurry vision, and a partial or total loss of vision. Today, treatment options include certain steroids and immunosuppressive drugs.
Most gene therapies use viral vectors to transport the DNA into a patient's system. The main reason scientists are curious about Eyevensys EyeCET program is because Eyevensys' system relies on electro-transfection rather than viral vectors to deliver the DNA to a patient's eyes. Specifically, the DNA plasmid is placed inside a patient's ciliary muscle for the safe production of healthy proteins.
Today, treating complex eye issues is a major challenge for both patients and doctors. Since treatments are limited to painful and frequent direct injections into the eyeball, patient compliance is extremely low. Also, patients often experience numerous potentially blinding side effects from these direct treatments.
Eye doctors are hopeful that advances in gene therapy will help increase patient compliance and remove the pain and fear that often surrounds eye treatments. Since gene therapies are designed to be one-off treatments, this could reduce medical expenses for both patients and doctors.
Eyevensys' technology goes straight into the eye's ciliary muscles, which helps increase protein production in the anterior and posterior areas of the eye. The entire gene therapy treatment lasts about two minutes and is only minimally invasive.
Doctors have high hopes for the EyeCET technology. If all goes well in clinical trials, this could become the world's first successful non-viral eye gene therapy.
Eyevensys, of course, isn't the only biotech engaged in designing gene therapy solutions for eye problems. Other French biotechs taking a serious look into this issue include Horama and GenSight. While both Horama and GenSight's projects have promise, they both rely on viral vectors. Viral vectors have been shown to be extremely difficult to control, can only be used in subretinal injections, could lead to brain complications, and are quite costly to manufacture.
Eyevensys' main headquarters is in the Pépinière Paris Santé Cochin on Rue du Faubourg Saint Jacques, Paris. The team working at Eyevensys says it's committed to "overcoming the shortcomings of current therapeutic options" in ophthalmology and improving patient outcomes, tolerability, and compliance.