Character Biosciences, a precision medicine platform for neglected diseases of aging, today announced that it has raised $18 million in a new funding round led by Innovation Endeavors. The fundraise included both leading life sciences investors Section 32 and Catalio Capital Management, alongside renowned single-issue funds LifeForce Capital and Clover Health.
According to the press release:
This latest round of funding provides capital to accelerate the buildout of clinical genomic platforms in dry AMD, a leading cause of vision loss which has no approved therapy, and two other genetically defined indications. Further, the company will use the funding to advance two lead drug candidates that have achieved in vivo proof of mechanism. These candidates, which target molecularly defined AMD patient subtypes, have been discovered and developed by Character leveraging the insights of the platform.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease that affects the central portion of the retina, called the macula.
The damage to this area can cause central vision to become blurry or distorted and may result in complete loss of central vision.
Dry AMD accounts for 90%–95% of all cases. Dry macular degeneration begins with damage caused by aging and smoking over time that causes tiny yellow deposits called drusen beneath your retina’s retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). These deposits prevent nutrients from reaching photoreceptors in the macula—the central area responsible for detailed vision used in reading and recognizing faces—causing them to break down over time until they eventually die off completely without any treatment whatsoever.
According to the press release:
“Character is reclassifying age-related diseases at the molecular level,” said Joel Dudley, Venture Partner at Innovation Endeavors who has joined Character’s Board of Directors. “Most drugs in clinical development are still taking a one-size-fits all approach. The time is now to investigate the vast differences we see in the clinical and molecular profiles of patients who are diagnosed with the same disease, and to discover precision therapies informed by patient data.”
“By leveraging a diverse patient community and longitudinal medical data, Character is tackling key challenges faced by the aging population,” said Vivek Garipalli, CEO of Clover Health, which incubated Character. “Their approach of embracing complexity in disease and diversity in patients will drive more efficient drug discovery and improve lives for patients with huge unmet needs – a mission that’s near and dear to us at Clover.”
The disease usually appears after age 60, but it can occur earlier.
While age-related macular degeneration (AMD) typically appears after age 60, it can occur earlier. In fact, some patients are diagnosed with early AMD, which is a form of the disease that affects the center of your retina and is usually caused by aging and heredity factors.
Other risk factors for developing macular degeneration include:
- Smoking cigarettes or a pipe
- Having diabetes or high blood pressure
- Having a family history of macular degeneration
In dry AMD cells in your macula slowly break down, gradually blurring your central vision; there is no treatment for dry AMD, until now.
The retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of your eye that helps you see. The macula is a small spot near the center of your retina that gives you sharp, central vision. It’s responsible for reading, driving and recognizing faces.
In dry AMD cells in your macula slowly break down, gradually blurring your central vision; there has been no treatment for dry AMD until now.
Character Biosciences has partnered with patients, providers, payers, and scientists to create large deeply-phenotyped patient cohorts to enable clinical genomics research. The company’s approach integrates genomics, longitudinal clinical and imaging data, machine learning, and novel experimental approaches to identify the molecular drivers of disease progression and develop innovative targeted medicines with its newest venture into the research of AMD and clinical trials to stop the chronic loss of vision across the nation.