Two Edinburgh researchers are co-founders of a new medical therapeutics company developing treatments for a common cause of blindness.
Biochemists Paul Barlow and Andy Herbert of the University of Edinburgh have joined forces with biotechnology entrepreneur James McLaughlin to launch Gemini Therapeutics, which has announced $42.5 million of venture capital investment.
The investment will be used to develop drugs to treat dry age-related macular degeneration, or dry AMD, which is currently incurable. AMD is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in old age across Europe and the US.
Gemini Therapeutics builds on insights and technology related to the role of the body’s immune system in dry AMD.
Many sufferers of dry AMD have inherited a minor defect in immune regulation. This allows, over time, the immune system to damage cells in the eye, leading eventually to sight loss.
By developing drugs that restore the balance of immune regulation, Gemini Therapeutics aims to prevent sight loss caused by dry AMD.
Paul Barlow, a professor in the University’s School of Chemistry, also heads a research institute in the neighbouring School of Biological Sciences. Dr Andy Herbert is the director of a Scottish Enterprise-funded High-Growth Spinout Programme within the School of Chemistry.
The pair worked closely with Dr Keith Finlayson and colleagues at Edinburgh Innovations during the commercialisation process and throughout the ongoing collaboration with Gemini Therapeutics that began in late 2015.
Race against time
Professor Barlow said: “By 2020 there will be 200 million people worldwide with AMD so this is a race against time.”
He emphasised the critical role played by previous funding received from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and biomedical research charity Wellcome.
Dr Herbert said: “I’m delighted that, based on a decade of our fundamental research, we are developing therapeutics that could help these patients. This new company is a brilliant example of the global reach of Scottish science.”
James McLaughlin, CEO of Gemini Therapeutics, said: “It has been great working with Andy and Paul over the last 20 months. Their advice, help and scientific problem-solving has been critical to the growth of Gemini, as has their work generating pilot data. There are exciting times ahead.”