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Wayne State University startup joins ranks of 50 smartest companies

June 22, 2016


DETROIT – Wayne State University startup RetroSense Therapeutics LLC has been named one of the 50 Smartest Companies by the MIT Technology Review. The 50 Smartest Companies represent the businesses that are the most ambitious, creative and fixated on bringing radical new technologies to life.

RetroSense joins the ranks of Amazon, Microsoft, Snapchat, Facebook, Tesla Motors and 44 other companies that the review noted as being “smart” in the way they create new opportunities.

The MIT Technology Review noted that Retrosense Therapeutics — headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan — is notable for its use of  optogenetics, a technology that uses a combination of gene therapy and light to precisely control nerves. “In its treatment of retinitis pigmentosa, the eye is injected with viruses carrying DNA from light-sensitive algae,” the publication stated. “This is intended to confer light sensitivity on certain nerve cells in the eye.”

RetroSense Therapeutics LLC, a privately held biopharmaceutical company, successfully dosed its first patient in the first clinical trial to evaluate the safety of RST-001 in March 2016. The study, “Phase I/IIa, Open-Label, Dose-Escalation Study of Safety and Tolerability of Uniocular Intravitreal RST-001 in Patients with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP),” is designed to restore some vision in patients with RP, a genetic condition that leads to the progressive degeneration of rod and cone photoreceptors — light-sensing cells found in the retina — resulting in severe vision loss and blindness.

The technology is a result of several years of research and collaboration with researchers at leading institutions, including Zhuo-Hua Pan, Ph.D, the Edward T. and Ellen K. Dryer Endowed Professor, professor of ophthalmology and anatomy/cell biology, and scientific director of the Ligon Research Center of Vision/Kresge Eye Institute at Wayne State University’s School of Medicine and Richard Masland, Ph.D., at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary,  early pioneers in optogenetics for vision restoration.

“This is exciting recognition for RetroSense and all of its efforts in finding a way to restore sight,” said Joan Dunbar, Ph.D., associate vice president for technology commercialization at Wayne State University. “Without the efforts of Sean Ainsworth, RetroSense’s CEO, the company would not be in patient clinical trial stages. It is Sean’s critical efforts that are bringing Drs. Pan and Masland’s important research to life, and hopefully they will be successfully taking their clinical trials to the bedside in the near future.”

“This is another example of the strong innovation ecosystem here in Detroit and at Wayne State University,” said Stephen Lanier, Ph.D., vice president for research at Wayne State. “It’s very nice to see RetroSense being recognized for moving this technology forward, which has the potential for broad impact.”

For more information about RetroSense Therapeutics, visit retro-sense.com.

For more information about the MIT Technology Review’s “50 Smartest Companies 2016,” visit technologyreview.com/lists/companies/2016/.

About RetroSense Therapeutics

RetroSense Therapeutics is a privately held biotechnology company that develops life-enhancing gene therapies designed to restore vision in patients suffering from blindness due to retinitis pigmentosa and advanced dry age-related macular degeneration. There are currently no FDA-approved drugs to improve or restore vision in patients with these retinal degenerative conditions. The company's approach to using optogenetics in vision restoration is based on pioneering, proprietary research conducted at Wayne State University and Massachusetts General Hospital. RetroSense has worldwide exclusive rights to the relevant intellectual property from both institutions. RetroSense is led by a team of seasoned veterans with deep experience in taking products from the discovery stage through to the clinic. For more information about RetroSense, visit retro-sense.com.

About Wayne State University

Wayne State University is one of the nation’s pre-eminent public research universities in an urban setting. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world. For more information about research at Wayne State University, visit research.wayne.edu.