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University of Bern spin-off Arctos Medical acquired by Novartis

Life sciences

22 September 2021

Arctos Medical, a University of Bern spin-off developing optogenetic therapies for treating blindness, was acquired by Novartis.

More than two million people globally experience progressive vision loss from genetic diseases called inherited retinal dystrophies (IRDs). Often resulting in complete blindness, these diseases are caused by mutations in many different genes – but existing treatments target a single gene responsible for vision loss in a small number of patients.

Based in Liebefeld (canton of Bern), Arctos is developing technology for the treatment of blindness associated with retinal degenerative diseases, based on the work of its scientific founders, Drs. Sonja Kleinlogel and Michiel van Wyk of the University of Bern.

The therapeutic approach is to create “replacement photoreceptors” with an optogene delivered to and expressed in specific retinal cells using adeno-associated virus (AAV) gene therapy technology.

Swiss drugmaker Novartis has announced its acquisition of Arctos Medical with the aim of boosting its efforts to find treatments for severe vision loss.

A promising therapeutic approach

“We are thrilled that Novartis recognizes the potential value and differentiated profile of Arctos’ unique optogenetics technology,” said Kostas Kaloulis, CEO of Arctos and venture partner at +ND Capital. “As a global ophthalmology leader, Novartis is ideally positioned to rapidly advance our program into the clinic. We look forward to progressing the technology to deliver transformative therapies for underserved patients.”

A University of Bern spin-off, Arctos Medical was the first Swiss gene therapy company. Later identified and incubated by +ND Capital, as part of its company creation program, Arctos was supported by Novartis Venture Fund through a Series A financing round led by +ND Capital.