Baltimore biotech firm
Ocular Proteomics LLC
is seeking its first round of financing within the next six months, for $3 million to $4 million in venture capital. While a closing date for the round has not been determined, the decision follows a $1.2 million federal grant the biotechnology startup recently won to begin clinical trials on macular degeneration diagnosis and treatment. The startup last month moved from Towson to UMB BioPark for larger laboratory facilities.
The venture capital financing will be used for clinical trials, marketing and new hires, according to director of business development Joshua Hines.
The $1.2 million grant comes from the National Eye Institute and National Institutes of Health, and runs for two years, from May 2013 to May 2015. Next year, the company will apply to renew the grant and, if successful, would receive $1.5 million per year for up to five years.
The $1.2 million grant enables Ocular to start clinical trials for ophthalmic diagnosis based on the company’s discovery of biochemical markers in the vitreous of the human eye. The trials will be held at three locations -- Baltimore, Chicago and Cleveland – and will involve 200 patients with macular degeneration.
Dr. Bert M. Glaser, Ocular’s chief scientific Institutes of Health officer, founded the company in 2009. Dr. Glaser heads the National Retina Institute, of which Ocular is a spinoff.
Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness among adults. An estimated 15 million Americans have macular degeneration, of whom 2.5 million have the advanced form that threatens their eyesight. If not treated, the disease inevitably leads to blindness.
There is no cure for macular degeneration but there is an injectible medication that stops the progression of the disease in about one-third of the patients on whom it is used. However, a patient must wait six months to a year before knowing if the medication is effective. Based on the biomarkers, the company’s focus is to determine if the patient will respond to the medication before then.
The privately-financed Ocular has two full-time employees. It is looking to hire two laboratory technicians within the year, and is also seeking up to three college students who are interested in unpaid internships doing eye research.
Source: Joshua Hines, Ocular Proteomics LLC
Writer: Barbara Pash