TearSolutions, Inc., a Charlottesville, VA based biopharmaceutical company, announces the completion of a $6.4 million financing round consisting of preferred stock and convertible promissory notes. The financing round was led by VTC Innovation Fund (Virginia Tech Carilion) and included the UVa Seed Fund, MEDARVA Foundation, and PharmStandard Ventures, all of whom have previously invested in the Company.
The funds will be used by TearSolutions to complete a pivotal FDA Phase II clinical trial for LacripepTM, its lead product candidate. The clinical trial is being conducted with 201 primary Sjögren’s Syndrome dry eye patients at 27 investigational sites across the United States. A new site is opening soon at UVa. LacripepTM is a naturally occurring peptide found in normal tears that has been shown to be deficient in all forms of dry eye tears. Primary Sjögren’s Syndrome patient’s tears are particularly deficient in LacripepTM. Administration of LacripepTM in a Sjögren’s animal model has shown a dramatic restoration of normal tearing and corneal health.
TearSolutions, Inc. was founded in 2013 to commercialize the pioneering NIH funded research on tears carried out by Dr. Gordon Laurie, a professor in UVa’s School of Medicine. Dr. Laurie and his co-founder Mark Logan, who has held leadership positions in the pharmaceutical industry, formed the company and licensed the patents from the UVa Licensing and Venture Group. They have assembled an outstanding and experienced management team, led by Tom Gadek, President & CEO. Dr. Gadek in his former position developed the dry eye product Xiidra, currently being marketed by Shire. “The dry eye market in the US is just over $2 billion, and neither of the two FDA approved products address the root cause”, Dr. Gadek commented. “As a natural replacement therapy, LacripepTM could meet a huge unmet need”, he added.
Roanoke, Virginia, December 7, 2017 – Middleland Capital’s Virginia Tech Carilion (VTC) Innovation Fund and Pharmstandard International, S.A. co-led the $8.5M Series B financing of TearSolutions, Inc. Also participating were most of TearSolutions’ existing investors, including Santen Ventures, Inc. Proceeds will be used to advance Lacripep™, a novel replacement therapy for dry eye disease, through its ongoing Phase I/II clinical trial.
TearSolutions, Inc. is a clinical stage ocular health-focused pharmaceutical company whose lead candidate, Lacripep™, is currently in a Phase I/II clinical trial of primary Sjögren’s Syndrome dry eye. Lacripep™, a novel and naturally occurring peptide fragment of the tear protein Lacritin, is being developed as a replacement therapy, which restores tearing and homeostasis to the ocular surface as has been demonstrated preclinically.
“TearSolutions is poised to make a significant impact in the lives of dry eye patients,” said James Ramey, JD, Principal and Fund Manager of Middleland Capital’s VTC Innovation Fund, who will be joining TearSolutions’ Board of Directors as an observer. “This Company has a blue-chip management team and we are proud to work with our syndicate partners to support TearSolutions’ efforts as it advances Lacripep™ to this underserved patient population.”
“Due to its unique mode of action and excellent safety profile, Lacripep™ has a great chance to become a breakthrough product for dry eye disease, particularly for primary Sjögren’s Syndrome patients.The team is equipped with outstanding management and investment syndicate, so I believe we have everything in place to make this story a success,” notes Alexey Vinodograv, head of Pharmstandard Ventures, who will be joining TearSolutions’ Board of Directors in conjunction with the financing.
TearSolutions’ current 201 patient Phase I/II POC trial (FPI June 2017, LPO Q1 2018) compares vehicle to two dose strengths of LacripepTM, a novel 19 AA peptide that is present in similar form in normal tears and deficient in all forms of dry eye. “We are enrolling patients at clinical trial sites across the United States with the help of the Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation and CRO Lexitas Pharma Services.
Considering TearSolution’s base in Central and Southwest Virginia and Carilion Clinic’s reputation for patient-centric care coupled with its cutting edge clinical research, Vistar Eye Center, a partner of Carilion Clinic, was a natural choice for our Lacripep™ trial,” said Tom Gadek, PhD, CEO of TearSolutions. “Dry eye in primary Sjögren’s patients is particularly acute. The strong interest from such high-quality investors further validates our confidence in LacripepTM, to meet this challenge,” noted Gadek. “Our new and existing investors understand the unmet clinical need and share TearSolutions’ vision of treating this underserved patient population by rapidly bringing Lacripep™ to market.”
About TearSolutions, Inc.
TearSolutions is a clinical-stage biotechnology company spun out of the University of Virginia that is advancing a novel, first-in- class topical treatment for dry eye through Phase I/II human clinical trials. The drug, Lacripep™, is a synthetic fragment of the human tear protein Lacritin discovered and developed with National Eye Institute funding. Topical Lacripep™ is a breakthrough opportunity that in preclinical studies eliminates corneal staining and independently promotes basal tearing without irritation for hours by natural physiological processes.
About the Virginia Tech Carilion (VTC) Innovation Fund
Managed by Middleland Capital, the VTC Innovation Fund is a private investment fund focused on early stage life science and technology opportunities across the Commonwealth of Virginia, as well as opportunities outside Virginia with a connection to Virginia Tech or Carilion Clinic. The Fund aims to partner with exceptional management teams to commercialize innovative technologies, accelerate growth, and build long-term value. For more information, please visit vtcinnovationfund.com.
Pharmstandard International S.A. is a company with the main focus on venture investments in innovative medicines/therapies with strong potential globally. Pharmstandard International S.A. is a fully owned subsidiary of Pharmstandard, JSC – Russia’s leading pharmaceutical company. For more information, please visit: www.pharmstd.lu.
Pharmstandard Ventures is venture arm of Pharmstandard, JSC, founded in 2013 (under the name “Inbio Ventures”, became a part of Pharmstandard in 2017) with the mission to provide professional support to Pharmstandard International S.A. in venture transactions. With more than $100m under management Pharmstandard Ventures is focused on disruptive innovation, making difference in patients’ lives. For more information, please visit: www.pharmstd-ventures.com.
Charlottesville, Virginia, January 17, 2018 – Since its launch, the UVA LVG Seed Fund has made three investments in companies based on technology developed from UVA research discoveries and licensed from the UVA Licensing & Ventures Group (LVG). Overseen by Bob Creeden, Managing Director of the Seed Fund & New Ventures at LVG, the Fund was created to propel UVA’s research enterprise and expand its capacity to drive innovation to the marketplace. The Fund encourages entrepreneurship and offers UVA-affiliated startups the capital to advance opportunities that are often considered too early for investment by traditional sources.
The second investment made in January 2017 helped TearSolutions, Inc. launch its next phase of clinical testing. Discovered by UVA Professor of Cell Biology and Ophthalmology Dr. Gordon Laurie, TearSolutions’ first-in-class therapy is a synthetic form of the protein lacritin which targets the causes of dry-eye disease.
“The Fund has made significant progress in its first year closing three deals with UVA startups that have emerged from varying schools and departments across Grounds,” says Bob Creeden. “We believe each company has potential to make an impact in the market which aligns with the UVA Cornerstone Plan to drive the local and regional economy.” Each new venture considered by the Fund undergoes an extensive due diligence process. Once the Fund makes each investment, Creeden and his team become actively engaged with each respective new venture offering resources and access to the broader UVA network, beginning with the committee members.
About UVA LVG Seed Fund
The University of Virginia created the $10 million UVA LVG Seed Fund with funding from the University and the UVA Health System to support new ventures emerging from the university portfolio. Operating as part of the UVA Licensing & Ventures Group (LVG), the main objectives of the fund are to support the UVA Cornerstone Plan, be capable of generating significant financial returns, and be diversified in supporting a broad range of innovation assets developed at UVA. The fund will reinvest its gains to provide capital for additional investments. It launched in 2016 and is governed by the Seed Fund Committee, comprised of five UVA alum who are all leaders in early-stage investing and startup development, which oversees each investment decision.The Managing Director of the Seed Fund & New Ventures Bob Creeden was appointed by LVG and the committee in September 2016.
About University of Virginia Licensing & Ventures Group
The Licensing & Ventures Group is the University of Virginia intellectual property management and innovation commercialization organization for UVA’s research portfolio. Founded in 1977 as a 501(c)(3) UVA affiliated foundation, UVA LVG receives ~200 invention disclosures, executes ~80 commercial transactions, and launches 5-7 new companies each year. During the 2017 fiscal year, UVA LVG was awarded 82 patents in the US and abroad. Its mission is to maximize the impact of UVA innovation assets via commercialization while providing high levels of customer service, value-added business development, new venture creation, and a focus on driving quality transactions.