Drops for reading, a $220M raise, and an acquisition straight out of the movies
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Blackrock + MindX
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Life Science Today is your source for stories, insights, and trends across the life science industry. Expect weekly highlights about new technologies, pharmaceutical mergers and acquisitions, news about the moves of venture capital and private equity, and how the stock market responds to biotech IPOs. Life Science Today also explores trends around clinical research, including the evolving patterns that determine how drugs and therapies are developed and approved. It’s news, with a dash of perspective, focused on the life science industry.
Welcome to Life Science Today, your source for stories, insights, and trends across the life science industry. I’m your host, Dr. Noah Goodson. This week, drops for reading, a $220M raise, and an acquisition straight out of the movies.
The views expressed on Life Science Today are those of the host and guests. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any organizations with which they are affiliated.
Orasis See’s Long-Term Potential For Presbyopia
Presbyopia, or as it is commonly known, farsightedness, is the single most prevalent from of vision loss globally, and impacts an estimate 1.8 billion people. The most common cause is age-related decreases in the flexibility of the lens leading to decreased ability to focus on nearby objects. This is most commonly resolved through the use of reading glasses. While this is a relatively direct therapy it may not be the best fit for everyone and with such global prevalence there are plenty of opportunities for therapeutics.
Since presbyopia impacts so many, it’s not surprising that there are a wide range of therapies in development. Several that we’ve covered on the show previously focus on the obvious root cause of lens stiffness – most often this involves an eyedrop that may change the flexibility of the lens itself – but to date none have reached market. However, this week the Israeli based pharma company, Orasis released positive topline results for their therapy CSF-1. The daily eye drop therapy showed promise of clinical improvement in close vision. The mode of action is a novel formulation of the well-studied glaucoma medication Pilocarpine hydrochloride. Rather than acting on the lens, it instead causes a moderate contraction of the pupil – the resulting pinhole effect increases the eyes depth of field and subsequently reduces the focus requirements for nearfield vision. This basically clinically resolves the challenge without treating any of the underlying cause, or at least the data suggest it could do this in some people. The results have emerged and the topline appears promising. Orasis also has the fact that Pilocarpine has been well studied for safety in other conditions. However, this is one of the few cases where I am skeptical of rapid FDA approval. First, the sample sizes are relatively small compared to the prevalence of the disease – there were less than 700 people in the study. Second, we are looking at chronic use of a novel formulation with low clinical necessity – yes it sucks to use reading glasses, but the risks are relatively low. Orasis plans to go to the FDA in the back half of 2022, so we should know more around that time about the safety/efficacy profile of their data. I think the approach deserves a tip of the hat for therapeutic potential, but it’s failure to directly target the underlying disease condition may leave something to be desired when it comes to long-term uptake.
Reify Raises $220M Series D
Reify Health has raised a $220M Series D with a $4.8B valuation. The bold marketing claims suggest that they are going to solve the diversity issues in clinical research by 2030. Under the hood, the clinical research support organization has two arms driving this massive valuation. StudyTeam focused on solving recruitment issues within clinical trials providing a platform that drive patients to sites, supports sites in recruiting their own patients, and helps feed them into trials. This tool is intended to fill a real sponsor need in bringing recruitment efficiency and transparency to what is happening within the processes. The second wing of Reify is CareAccess which is basically one massive vertically integrated site network that includes elements like mobile health to drive a more decentralized approach to trials. In the evolving clinical research space the combination of dispersed networks, mobile clinics, and telehealth will doubtless be integrated across various pipelines, as appropriate, to drive a more accessible clinical research model. For a variety of reasons vertically integrated site networks and mobile health services like Reify offers can certainly add significant value in some indications. This is a massive raise in the clinical research space, and the most notable this year for clinical research service providers. However, it should be noted that Reify’s business model likely contains significant additional capital and staffing requirements to serve sponsors at scale. I suspect a good portion of this raise may be directed there, but perhaps they will simultaneously expand their technical capabilities to try and collectively offer more decentralized digital services. Additionally, their distinct marketing push towards diversity suggests they may capitalize on the industry trends and the new FDA guidance to offer a “diversity and inclusion” solution to sponsors combining both wings of their company.
Last year, I would say we can expect them to go public within 8 months. If they were already public I’d actually anticipate acquisition and integration of smaller site networks. As things stand, we will have to watch and wait to see how they take a company now valued at close to $5B forward.
Blackrock Neurotech acquires MindX
Blackrock Neurotech may sound like a company right of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but there is nothing nefarious about the futuristic company backed by a billionaire seeking to drive innovation around brain computer interface technology. Their acquisition of MindX to integrate more augmented reality and artificial intelligence into their futuristic solutions also definitely don’t sound like the plot for an upcoming blockbuster.
All joking aside everything I said is true. Blackrock Neurotech is pushing the boundaries of brain-tech interactions focusing primarily on instances where humans have lost significant function in a domain and implants have the potential to enable some semblance of restored function. And ok… they may be named like the successor of Oscorp, but they also can say things like “34 people around the world have an implanted brain-computer interface, 31 of them use Blackrock technology.” Their acquisition of MindX sets them to blend in additional functionality as they push the boundaries of what is possible. While sustainable human-neuro implants that are applicable at scale are still in the more distant future, the current capabilities to restore function, movement, and independence that have been developed and the significant lessons learned do provide some optimism for future applications in the broader population.
Thanks for joining me for Life Science Today, your source for stories, insights, and trends across the life science industry. Learn more at LifeScienceTodayPodcast.com. If you like what you hear, please tell a friend. Once again, I’m Dr. Noah Goodson, I’ll see you next week.