At Roche and Genentech, we are very proud of the advances that we have made in ophthalmology. We have been able to make significant progress in serious eye diseases, such as wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic macular edema, and are committed to making a big impact in other diseases, such as geographic atrophy (GA), which is considered a late stage of the dry form of AMD. However, we are always pushing the boundaries of treatment possibilities through our research. GA is a disease area of high unmet need, and we are committed to better understanding the biology of this disease, while continuing to find new and improved treatments for patients.
“At Genentech, we have a number of ongoing ocular programmes that we believe will help us better understand the biology behind ophthalmic diseases and develop better treatment options for patients. We want to restore as much function as we can for patients,” says Seppi Lin, Vice President, Head of OMNI, Genentech Research and Early Development.
A key driver for pursuing this research was when we asked ourselves: can we develop a treatment that would both slow-down disease progression AND restore vision loss in the dry form of AMD? This became our goal, and we set out many paths both internally and externally to maximise our chances of reaching it.
Our recent partnership with Lineage Cell Therapeutics (LCTX) for the investigational cell therapy OpRegen®, which consists of allogeneic retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells, is one of the important routes we are pursuing. This partnership gives us the opportunity to conduct foundational research that aims to support the development of a cell-based therapy for ocular diseases. The hope is that this treatment could not only slow down progression of the dry form of AMD, but also restore function to the retina. OpRegen RPE cell therapy will support our journey in ophthalmology through the development of the first regenerative retinal cell therapy in the clinic, as well as through new research into the biology of the retina, the retinal microenvironment and the development of new biomarkers.
For Roche and Genentech, this is the first opportunity we have had to explore a potential regenerative cell therapy with a partner. “In an ageing society, we really want to find therapies that can slow down and ideally restore the function of tissues,” says Heinrich Jasper, Principal Fellow and Director, Immunology Discovery, Genentech.
We are very excited to take steps towards utilising regenerative cell therapy and to learn how to develop this new modality. Our hope is that we would then be able to apply our learnings to a wide range of diseases.