Phision Therapeutics wins University College Dublin’s 2015 Start-Up Award
24 November 2015
Dr Breandán Kennedy and Dr Alison Reynolds
Phision Therapeutics, an early-stage life sciences venture, has won University College Dublin’s (UCD) 2015 Start-Up Award after being declared overall winner of this year’s UCD VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme.
The new venture is developing proprietary therapeutic drugs to more effectively treat vision loss to prevent blindness associated with ageing or diabetes.
The retinal disease age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss in Western societies. In the US alone the retinal therapeutic market, to treat such diseases, is valued at $3.5 billion annually.
The current treatment for patients experiencing vision loss due to AMD involves up to 12 eye injections per year. It is recognised that patients are also at risk of eye infections or retinal detachments due to the injections. In addition up to 30 per cent of AMD patients do not respond to these injections, and for them there is currently no effective alternative treatment.
To address such issues and using an unbiased, systems-pharmacology approach Phision Therapeutics has identified, and is developing, novel small molecule drugs with novel mechanisms of action to curb the undesired growth of ‘leaky’ new blood vessels in the eye which lead to vision loss and blindness.
Phision Therapeutics is a new venture emerging from research carried out over several years by founder Dr Breandán Kennedy with Dr Alison Reynolds at the UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science and the UCD Conway Institute.
Dr Kennedy said: “It is a great honour for Phision Therapeutics to have won the 2015 UCD VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme and it is a great endorsement for our new venture going forward.
“Looking to the future we are currently seeking €400,000 in seed funding to enable us to formulate and manufacture our novel small molecule drugs. Thereafter, following additional fund raising, we plan to proceed with pre-clinical and clinical studies to validate that our drugs offer a better treatment option, including a reduction in the number of eye injections, for patients experiencing vision loss associated with AMD.”
Funders of this research to date include; Enterprise Ireland; Science Foundation Ireland; Irish Research Council; Health Research Board and the European Commission’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Programme.
The overall objective of the UCD VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme is to support the creation, and to accelerate the launch, of sustainable and profitable new ventures based on intellectual property emerging from UCD. The programme aims is to equip UCD researchers with the knowledge, skills and understanding that is required to work as part of a team successfully leading a new commercial venture.
Speaking after the awards evening Professor Orla Feely, UCD vice-president for research, innovation and impact, said: “Excellent research and innovation are central to all that we do in UCD delivering impact in areas of importance and opportunity. This was clearly displayed by the early-stage ventures which participated on this year’s VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme. Through this programme we are supporting our researchers to accelerate the establishment of research-based companies providing value-added products and services for the global market.
“Phision Therapeutics is an excellent example of a new venture, emerging from research carried out at UCD, which is being established to address a worldwide need, in this case to more effectively treat patients experiencing AMD-related vision loss.
“I would like to congratulate Dr Breandán Kennedy on winning this year’s VentureLaunch Accelerator Award and I wish Phision Therapeutics every commercial success for the future.”
The annual UCD VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme, which is held at NovaUCD the Centre for New Ventures and Entrepreneurs, uses the Business Model Canvas approach to start-up development. The programme consists of 10 three-hour workshops, delivered over a three-month period, and a series of one-to-one sessions with external experts in areas such as finance, marketing and customer validation.
In addition to the 2015 UCD VentureLaunch Accelerator Award, Phision Therapeutics was presented with a cheque for €10,000, and a professional services package to the value of €15,000. The prizes are sponsored by AIB, Bryan Maguire Business Consulting, Deloitte, and NovaUCD.
The 2015 UCD VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme evaluation panel, which selected the overall winner, was chaired by Brendan Cremen, UCD director of enterprise and commercialisation. The other members of the panel were Dr Sharon O’Kane and Dr Sean Baker, NovaUCD entrepreneurs in residence in life sciences and ICT respectively; Dr Helen McBreen, investment director at Atlantic Bridge Capital and Dr Edward McDonnell, director, CeADAR, the Centre for Applied Data Analytics Research.