Blind World Magazine

$25 million Financing to Develop New Drugs for Retinal Diseases.

November 07, 2005.
Press Release.

Fovea Pharmaceuticals SA (Fovea), a biopharmaceutical company created in May 2005 by a team of experienced scientists and managers, announced today the closing of a EUR20.5 million ($ 25 million) equity financing round. The international syndicate was led by Sofinnova Partners (France) and includes Abingworth Management (UK), The Wellcome Trust (UK), GIMV (Belgium) and Credit Agricole Private Equity (France).

Fovea is aiming at discovering, developing and commercializing innovative breakthrough drugs for the treatment of retinal diseases such as age-related macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, diabetic retinopathy or macular edema. These "back-of-the-eye diseases" affect large populations of patients (over 50 million people in North America and Europe). Despite their growing incidence, mainly due to ageing populations and to the increasing incidence of diabetes, there is still no satisfactory treatment and in most cases no treatment at all for these diseases. According to recent surveys, these pathologies lead to very high levels of morbidity and account for over 50% of all cases of legal blindness in Europe and North America.

Located in Paris (France), Fovea plans to build a world-class organization bringing together experts from around the world focused on breakthrough treatments of retinal diseases. Fovea benefits from an extensive network of internationally renowned scientists and clinicians. Using its proprietary technology platform, Fovea will use the proceeds to develop a diversified pipeline of products through both (1) internal research and, (2) therapeutic switching in Ophthalmology of molecules currently developed in other indications. Its development strategy leverages the combination of world class science and a privileged access to well-designed cohorts of patients.

The Company has a strong board and management team, including Bernard Gilly, co-founder of Fovea and partner at Sofinnova Partners since 2000 who has decided to join Fovea as Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, Professor Jose-Alain Sahel, co-founder of Fovea and Chief Scientific Advisor, and Pierre Belichard, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer.

Other co-founders are Serge Picaud and Thierry Leveillard, group leaders at Inserm Unit 592. In addition, Dr Elisabeth Latour, former Director of preclinical development at Novartis Ophtha Research has joined Fovea's team.

"I am delighted to see that we have already been able to provide Fovea with the necessary means to achieve its short term objectives in terms of management, finance and science" said Bernard Gilly, Chairman and CEO. "The support of INSERM, of the National Eye Hospital des XV-XX and of The Institut de la Vision are key differentiating factors which should hopefully allow Fovea to be rapidly successful. We are very grateful to have received such a strong financial support from top-tier European investors at this early stage of development of Fovea".

Professor Jose Sahel added: "We have a window of opportunity to create and develop Fovea. Science has evolved to a point allowing the development of innovative molecules to treat these millions of people affected with retinal degenerative disorders. We intend to attract and associate first class scientists and renowned clinicians to better serve patients expectations".

"Fovea was seeded by Sofinnova as a result of our permanent effort towards sourcing new breakthrough technology and scientific teams" commented Antoine Papiernik, Managing Partner at Sofinnova Partners, and we are extremely pleased to lead this international syndicate of investors in order to support the future growth of Fovea".

Bernard Gilly, PhD, was previously VP R&D at Pasteur-Merieux Connaught and then President and CEO of Transgene and has been involved in the management of a substantial number of start-up companies including CareX and Faust Pharmaceuticals. At Transgene, he managed the initial financing rounds as well as the dual listing of the company on the Nasdaq and the Nouveau Marche in 1998. Bernard Gilly will also bring his experience of the private equity sector, as he spent the last 5 years as Partner in the Life Sciences team at Sofinnova Partners in Paris.

Professor Sahel has been conducting pioneering research into the understanding of the pathological mechanisms involved in retinal cell degeneration. He is currently Chairman of one department of Ophthalmology at the National Eye Hospital of XV-XX and at the Rothschild Ophthalmology Foundation. He is also the director of INSERM Unit 592 and coordinates the Paris-based Clinical Investigation Centre of the National Eye Hospital of XV-XX. He is Professor at both the Pierre and Marie Curie University (Paris VI) and the University College of London. Professor Sahel recently received Awards from the US Foundation Fighting Blindness and the French Academie des Sciences, for his work on retinitis pigmentosa.

Pierre Belichard, PhD, also co-founder of Fovea, joined the Company since inception as Chief Operating Officer. Pierre Belichard has an extensive experience in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries both as a scientist and in business development. He was previously Licensing Director at Laboratoires Fournier, director of Business Development for Europe at Ethypharm, and more recently VP Business Development at UroGene.

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