University of Nottingham spin out secures major collaboration deal with Johnson and Johnson

Exonate Ltd has secured a major collaboration deal with Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson for its ophthalmology program.

Exonate has been developing a new treatment for leading causes of blindness (diabetic retinopathy and age related macular degeneration).

Exonate Ltd was spun out of the University of Nottingham in 2013 by University of Nottingham academics, Prof David Bates and Prof Lucy Donaldson and Professor Steven Harper from the University of Bristol based on their intellectual property along with that of University of New South Wales’ Professor Jonathan Morris.

Through the collaboration, Exonate will work with Janssen Research & Development, and LLC scientists to develop an eye drop treatment for retinal vascular diseases such as wet AMD and DMO by using mRNA targeted therapies.

Scientists at Exonate have developed small molecules that inhibit the production of pro-angiogenic vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) through the selective inhibition of serine/threonine-protein kinase (SRPK1)-mediated VEGF splicing. The agreement was facilitated by Johnson & Johnson Innovation.

The collaboration will fund the clinical trial and other activities in the company that will enable development of the first eye drop for treatment of diabetic macular oedema initially. The approach could transform the treatment of neovascular eye diseases, a market currently worth more than $6Bn a year, and extend it to preventative care too.

Exonate’s CEO, Dr Catherine Beech said: “I am absolutely delighted to enter this strategic collaboration with Janssen, we are looking forward to successfully developing a novel treatment for retinal neovascular diseases.”

Professor David Bates, the University of Nottingham, said: “This collaboration agreement allows Exonate to reach its primary goal of testing its designer compounds in patients for the first time.

“Over the last six years the team have worked immensely hard to develop key molecules that have the right safety, efficacy and delivery properties to be highly promising for patients.

“We will now be able to take that right through to clinical trial and beyond, in collaboration with one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies.”