After years of developing therapeutics for ocular diseases, Paris-based genomics-focused biotech startup SparingVision is gearing up to start dosing humans.
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The company will use the fresh funding, at a time when biotech funding is hard to come by, to extend its runway into 2025. It also will fund its ability to dose human patients in clinical trials, a monumental first step for any therapeutics company.
SparingVision has two gene therapy assets. One is aimed at slowing disease progression of inherited retinal diseases and age-related macular degeneration, both of which degrade a person’s vision considerably. The other is directed at restoring visual clarity and the ability to distinguish colors in patients with late-stage retinitis pigmentosa, which causes loss of vision at night.
Gene therapy: A new kind of medicine
Genetic material often acts as a user manual for the body, helping it function properly. But if the genetic code contains certain variants or mutations, the body receives the wrong instructions, leading to disease.
Unlike most oral drugs that introduce medicine by way of chemicals, gene therapy is meant to reconfigure the DNA by slicing out the parts of the gene causing disease or replacing it with new genetic code. Most gene therapies only have to be administered once, as opposed to oral drugs which require a daily or weekly dose. If a patient successfully receives a specific type of gene therapy, it can change their genetic code and prevent genetic disorders from being passed down to their children.
Gene therapy startups became the darling of the venture capital world in 2021. The sector received a whopping $13 billion in investment, a 125% increase from the year prior that led to massive exits. Because of a global trend of venture firms tightening their purse strings, 2022 has seen only $6.4 billion in funding so far—numbers that are on par with 2019 and 2020.
Illustration: Dom Guzman
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