Corneal blindness is pervasive in China, with more than 100,000 cases being reported every year. The available treatments include corneal tissue harvested from genetically modified pigs and human donor corneal transplantation. Unfortunately, human donor tissue is not readily available, while porcine corneas lack optical clarity and durability. However, Eluminex Biosciences is presenting a possible solution likely to help in meeting a significant unmet medical need for alternatives. The ophthalmology-focused biotechnology company has teamed up with FibroGen, Inc. (NASDAQ: FGEN) to develop and commercialize an investigational biosynthetic cornea derived from recombinant human collagen Type III.
Through the definitive agreement worth $8 million of upfront payment, FibroGen has given licensed global rights to Eluminex, which will make an additional payment of $64 million in future manufacturing, clinical and regulatory. Another $36 million in commercial milestones for the first recombinant collagen III product.
Transformation of the lives Through an Abundant Global Supply
Corneal diseases are the second leading cause of blindness in China. About 180,000 sight-restoring corneal transplantations are carried out across the world. Edward Holland, the new appointee into Eluminex’s Scientific Advisory Board (SAB), acknowledges the scarcity of corneal donations. Just about 5000 to 9000 corneal transplants are conducted in China annually. This means hundreds of thousands of other patients are unlikely to receive a sight-saving corneal transplant. However, he is optimistic that an abundant global supply of biosynthetic human corneal tissue would help transform their victims.
Meanwhile, Eluminex boasts a comprehensive portfolio of protein therapeutics for retinal diseases, including diabetic retinopathy, macular edema, and age-related macular degeneration. It derives its support from Hill House Capital, Lilly Asia Ventures, and Quan Capital, viewed as global life science venture funds.
On the other hand, Enrique Conterno, CEO of FibroGen, says that their agreement with Eluminex would help them focus on developing next-generation biopharmaceutical therapies. FibroGen’s core areas include autoimmune, cancer, anemia, and fibrotic diseases. Its current development is that of roxadustat, an oral small-molecule inhibitor of HIF prolyl hydroxylase activity.