KalVista Pharmaceuticals (“KalVista”) and JDRF have formed a research partnership focused on a novel approach being developed by KalVista to preserve vision and slow the progression of diabetic eye disease. Diabetic eye disease is one of the most common and most serious complications in people with type 1 diabetes (T1D). JDRF will provide up to $2.2 million inmilestone-based financial support and research expertise to KalVista. The goal of this partnership is to advanceKalVista’s lead pre-clinical candidate, a plasma kallikrein inhibitor,into human proof-of-concept clinical trials and to generate clinical data that would highlight its potential as an entirely new approach to treat diabetic macular edema (DME). DME is a leading cause of visual loss for people with T1D that involves swelling of the retina, which can lead to blurred vision and blindness.
Plasma kallikrein is an enzyme (a serine protease) that has been identified as a potential therapeutic target in people with diabetic retinopathy.Research has shown that it contributes to increases in blood vessel leakage and thickening of the retina. Previous JDRF-funded studies led by one of KalVista’s co-founders, Edward Feener, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Joslin Diabetes Center, demonstrated that plasma kallikrein is increased and activated in the vitreous fluid of people with DME . This data suggests that chronic activation of plasma kallikrein increases blood vessel inflammation and permeability by generating the production of a hormone called bradykinin, which causes blood vessels to dilate or enlarge. Plasma kallikrein inhibitors are believed to reduce retinal vessel leakage by suppressing the chronic and excessive production of bradykinin.
“Diabetic eye disease is a high priority research area for JDRF. Our support ofDr. Feener’s academic researchover the years at the Joslin Diabetes Centeron validating plasma kallikrein as a potential therapeutic target for diabetic macular edema underscores JDRF’s commitment to developing innovative approaches to prevent and treat this condition to save vision before it deteriorates,” said Aaron Kowalski, Ph.D., assistant vice president of Treatment Therapies for JDRF.
KalVista’s candidate will be selected from a series of novel small moleculeplasma kallikrein inhibitors, which areadvancing through pre-clinical development for the treatment of DME by delivery via intravitreal (IVT) injectioninto the eye. The pre-clinical studies being co-funded by JDRF will test whether administration of plasma kallikrein inhibitors by injection are likely to be safe and effective in improving symptoms of DME as well as in preserving visual acuity and slowing disease progression.
“JDRF is the leading global organization focused on research into diabetes and its complications and we are delighted it has recognized the potential of our novel approach to treating diabetic macular edema based on plasma kallikrein inhibitors,”saidAndrew Crockett, KalVista’s CEO. “This is an exciting collaboration and we look forward to the added expertise they will contribute to the development of our lead programme.”
“JDRF’s goal is to have the greatest and fastest positive impact on individuals with type 1 diabetes, which is why we are working toaccelerate the translation of novel discoveries in the lab, through clinical evaluation of safety and efficacy, and into commercial development,” added Kowalski. “What makes our collaboration with KalVista so exciting is that we are gradually seeing this novel therapy, which could represent a whole new approach to treating DME, move from basic research discovery into a potential commerciallyviable drug with the help of JDRF funding.”