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Novartis’ acquisition of Arctos Medical could lead to significant advancements in optogenetic therapies for patients with vision loss.
Novartis announced that it had acquired Arctos Medical on Sept. 21, 2021, giving them access to Arctos’ preclinical optogenetics-based adeno-associated viral vector gene therapy program and proprietary technology for its ophthalmology portfolio. Novartis hopes to use the technology gained in this acquisition to develop gene therapies for patients with vision loss.
Acrtos’ technology was developed as a method for treating conditions that involve photoreceptor loss, such as inherited retinal dystrophies (IRDs) or age-related macular degeneration. Because it does not target a specific gene, it could potentially address many forms of IRD independent of the underlying mutation. This is significant because, according to a Novartis press release, there are over 100 genes whose mutations could lead to IRDs.
The technology is designed to deliver proprietary, light-sensitive optogenes to specific retinal cells using gene therapy. This turns the targeted cells into replacement photoreceptor-like cells. If successful, a therapy derived from the technology could be used to treat diseases that cause blindness as a result of photoreceptor death.
“Optogenetics is emerging as a promising therapeutic approach that might restore sight to patients who are legally blind,” said Jay Bradner, president of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, in a company press release. “The Arctos technology builds on our conviction that optogenetic gene therapies may meaningfully help patients battling devastating eye diseases.”
“We’ve watched this technology develop and mature into a therapeutic program that complements our existing portfolio and gives us new optogenetics technology to wield in our efforts to bring desperately needed therapeutic options to patients for these blinding diseases,” said Cynthia Grosskreutz, global head of ophthalmology at the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, in the press release.