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Azura Ophthalmics Raises $20M for Dry Eye Treatment

The company is addressing meibomian gland dysfunction.

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Azura Ophthalmics Ltd., a Tel Aviv-based company developing therapies for meibomian gland dysfunction and related eye diseases, has raised $20 million in financing.

The round was led by a syndicate of existing investors including OrbiMed, TPG Biotech, Brandon Capital’s Medical Research Commercialization Fund and Ganot Capital, according to a press release from Azura.

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On the back of encouraging Phase 2 data to date, proceeds from the funding round will be used to advance Azura’s lead product candidate AZR-MD-001 through a registration study for the treatment of MGD, an eye condition where the meibomian glands become dysfunctional, resulting in rapid evaporation of the tear film.

Azura’s medicines in development are designed to address abnormal hyperkeratinization – the build-up and shedding of the proteins at the opening of the meibomian gland or within the gland itself – known to be the root cause of obstructive MGD. This approach has been used safely and effectively for decades in dermatology, the company explains. It is based on the understanding that meibomian glands share strong similarities with sebaceous glands, skin glands responsible for conditions like acne, including the ability to undergo keratinization.

Meibomian gland dysfunction is the leading cause of evaporative dry eye disease, a condition known to affect more than 30 million adults in the U.S. alone presenting a huge unmet need globally.

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“The current options we have to treat patients with Meibomian gland dysfunction focus primarily on relieving obstruction and have not focused on the role of keratin within meibum. There are millions of patients with ocular surface disease and MGD worldwide; we need better treatments to help our symptomatic patients,” said Dr. Preeya K. Gupta, clinical medical director of Duke Eye Center at Page Road and associate professor of ophthalmology at Duke University Eye Center. “The promise of Azura’s dermatological approach lies in its ability to open the glands, increase lipid production and restore tear-layer health, as well as preventing disease progression in patients with Meibomian gland dysfunction.”

Azura’s lead compound AZR-MD-001 is a topical ointment applied to the lower lid that has shown a positive safety and efficacy profile in several studies in MGD. Based on these data and interactions with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the company plans to proceed to registration studies in 2021.

“We are thrilled to enter 2021 with the additional funding that will allow us to conduct the studies needed to build a strong body of clinical evidence for our approach, so we can seek FDA approval for the first ophthalmic keratolytics for the treatment of Meibomian gland dysfunction,” said Marc Gleeson, CEO of Azura. “We are grateful for the support of our investors who share our conviction that Azura’s medicines in development have the potential to transform treatment and provide hope to millions of patients suffering from unresolved eye conditions.”

Dr. Chris Nave, managing director at Brandon Capital, said, “The investor syndicate believes in Azura and in its team’s ability to bring promising ocular products through approval and ultimately commercialization. The company is led by strong repeat entrepreneurs and industry veterans who have proven astute and resourceful in constructing an elegant pipeline and executing on efficient yet robust trials that have enabled swift progress. The investor syndicate is committed to continuing to support the advancement of Azura’s innovative pipeline as they create medicines to target Meibomian gland dysfunction and related conditions that impact the ocular health of millions of people around the world.”

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