Thursday, April 16, 2015
World’s Largest Gathering of Angels Names RetroSense 2015 Luis Villalobos Award Winner
What does it take to be named the most innovative ACA angel invested company for 2015? Well, Ann Arbor, Mich.-based RetroSense Therapeutics, has just raised the bar. The high-flying biotech is developing life-enhancing gene therapies designed to restore vision in patients suffering from blindness due to specific ailments.
RetroSense Therapeutics CEO Sean Ainsworth stated, "It's really exciting and an honor to win the Luis Villalobos Award, which highlights some of the amazing innovations that can come to life through the power of angel investing. Our angel-backed series A, of $7 million, has enabled us to complete studies needed to enter clinical trials and will fund early clinical development. It's great to have the recognition from ACA for the progress we're making toward restoring vision.
In his nomination of RetroSense, Ken Kousky of Blue Water Angels provided this background. We have known for decades that, in the absence of normal photoreceptors (i.e., rods and cones), other retinal cells can be stimulated (with electrodes) and create light perception. RetroSense is deploying a gene therapy to deliver light sensitive proteins to those retinal cells, enabling them to be directly stimulated by light, without the use of electrodes. RetroSense's approach uses "optogenetics", which is a means of using proteins to confer light sensitivity to cells that are not previously / natively light sensitive. By doing this in a retina that lacks rods and cones, RetroSense is proposing to restore vision in the blind. Moreover, because their goal is to restore vision (as opposed to slow disease progress) they expect to see proof of concept readouts very early in clinical studies, which are slated to begin in Q2 2015. RetroSense uses a delivery vector that has been proven safe in dozens of clinical trials. The company has also recently completed large animal safety studies, secured additional intellectual property, and received orphan designation from the FDA. RetroSense has made great strides on angel funding having secured more than $7 million. Angel funding is playing a pivotal role in restoring vision to the blind.
RetroSense Therapeutics is a well-deserved winner. Its innovations could make a huge difference in the lives of those blinded with retinal disorders. The company is also a great example of collaboration among early stage investors as it benefited from cross-country syndication with multiple ACA member groups.