Wayne State University startup acquired by Allergan plc in $60 million deal

January 30, 2017

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Allergan Plc, a leading global pharmaceutical company headquartered in Dublin, Ireland, announced in September 2016 that they had acquired Wayne State University startup RetroSense Therapeutics LLC.

RetroSense Therapeutics is a privately held clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on novel gene therapy RST-001, aimed at restoring vision in patients suffering from blindness caused by Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). The acquisition by Allergan in a $60 million agreement offers RetroSense potential regulatory and commercialization milestone payments related to its lead development program.

RetroSense has led clinical trials of RST-001 in patients with RP, with the goal of restoring some vision in patients with this 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. Approximately 100,000 people living in the U.S. and 14 to 33 per 100,000 people worldwide have the disorder, according the Foundation for Fighting Blindness and the National Center for Biotechnology Information of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

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

“The acquisition of RetroSense and its RST-001 program by Allergan illustrates the significance of the technology developed by Dr. Pan,” said Joan Dunbar, associate vice president for technology commercialization at Wayne State University. “Without the efforts of Sean Ainsworth, RetroSense’s CEO, this technology would not have been in the clinical trial stages. This important research has tremendous potential to impact the lives of many, and we look forward to the vital work of Allergan, which will give ophthalmology professionals around the world improved treatment options that have the potential to improve or even restore vision in RP patients.”