The firm is working on a treatment for diabetic macular edema.

LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND — Oculis, a biotechnology company focused on eye drops, has closed a $20.3 million funding round that included Novartis Venture Fund.

The financing was led by a syndicate including Bay City Capital, Novartis Venture Fund and Pivotal bioVenture Partners. Existing investors, including Brunnur Ventures and Silfurberg, also participated in the financing.

The funding will be used to advance clinical development of a topical product for treatment of diabetic macular edema. It will also help the company advance the product for other ophthalmic indications and to develop other drug candidates.

Endpoints News reports that the goal is "eventually snag a chunk of the market that drugs like Eylea and Lucentis have failed to capture." Those drugs are given as injections.eventually snag a chunk of the market that drugs like Eylea and Lucentis have failed to capture.

In conjunction with the financing, Oculis is relocating its corporate headquarters to Lausanne, Switzerland, while its R&D remains in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Dr. Riad Sherif, formerly area president for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Alcon and formerly a senior executive at Novartis, has been appointed as CEO of Oculis.

"I am extremely pleased to be joining such a great team to develop what could be the next generation of ophthalmic treatments," Sherif said. "Oculis founders have meticulously developed the novel SNP technology that improves both the ability to formulate drugs as eye drops and their bioavailability in eye tissues including the posterior segment. This technology opens a new era of breakthrough ophthalmic therapies that could provide important benefits to patients. Our goal with the lead program OC-118 is truly to transform the way DME is treated and managed today."

Páll Ragnar Jóhannesson has been named chief financial officer and managing director of Oculis in Iceland. Dr. Sabri Markabi, previously senior vice president, head of R&D and chief medical officer at Alcon, will join as chief scientific officer.

The company's founders, professors Einar Stefánsson and Thorsteinn Loftsson, are taking on the roles of chief innovation officer and chief research and technology officer, respectively.

Stefánsson said: "We are transforming eye drop technology and improving drug delivery to all parts of the eye. Treating retinal diseases with eye drops instead of injecting the eye with a needle provides comfortable and accessible treatment options for potentially tens of millions of patients with retinal disease."

Florent Gros of Novartis Venture Fund is joining the board as chairman, in addition to Arni Blöndal (Brunnur Ventures) and Stefan J. Sveinsson (formerly Global EVP RD at Actavis), Lionel Carnot (Bay City Capital) and Rob Hopfner (Pivotal Bioventure Partners).

 

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