Using nanoparticles, not needles, to deliver drugs into the eye nets Kala Pharmaceuticals $22.5M
April 24, 2014
Rather than using injections to deliver treatments to the middle and back of the eye,Kala Pharmaceuticals might have a way to get them there with topical drops.
The Massachusetts-based company is developing eye drops designed to carry drugs through the layer of mucus on the eye’s surface — a barrier that typically gets in the way of letting drugs reach deeper tissues, including the retina. That could potentially lead to better efficacy and more convenient dosing of drugs for patients.
“The way Kala solved that problem is basically by coating nanoparticles with a special molecular weight of a substance that’s FDA approved called polyethylene glycol,” Robert Langer, co-founder and MIT inventor, says in this video on the company’s website. “That enables you to penetrate through mucous actually quite rapidly, and that could be useful in treating any disease where mucous really prevents you from getting to the right target.”
An aging population is fueling healthy growth in the ophthalmology drug market, led by Pfizer, Allergan, Alcon, Novartis, Merck and Roche, and investors are betting big on new treatments. Kala, for one, just pulled in a $22.5 million Series B to fund four clinical trials this year.
Kala’s most advanced program is a reformulation of Bausch & Lomb’s Lotemax, an ointment that reduces inflammation in the eye after cataract surgery. The drug is scheduled to lose patent protection this year, and Kala plans to test its drop version in a pivotal trial this year.
Just behind that program are Phase 2 programs of the platform in indications for dry eye disease and inflammatory meibomian gland disease. Kala also plans to conduct an exploratory trial in diabetic macular edema and retinal vein occlusion. It’s also advancing a small molecule treatment for wet age-related macular degeneration.
Kala was founded by Langer at MIT, Dr. Justin Hanes at Johns Hopkins Medicine and Colin Gardner, a former VP of Pharmaceutical R&D at Merck. It last raised an $11.5 million Series A last year.