Otsuka and Shape Therapeutics join forces to create gene therapies for eye diseases using AI-powered platform

Otsuka Pharmaceutical, psychedelics, RNA technology, adeno-associated viruses, AAV vector, ocular diseases, Shape Therapeutics

Just a week after Otsuka Pharmaceutical ventured into the psychedelics sector, the Japanese pharmaceutical giant has struck a collaboration deal with Shape Therapeutics to work on intravitreal delivery of adeno-associated viruses (AAVs) for treating ocular diseases.

As part of this agreement, Shape Therapeutics, specializing in RNA technology, will receive an undisclosed initial payment. They will leverage their AAVid capsid discovery platform and transgene engineering expertise to assist Otsuka in developing novel therapies for severe eye conditions. In the event that these therapies progress successfully, Shape stands to gain combined milestone payments exceeding $1.5 billion, along with ongoing royalties.

“We’ve built our AAVid platform on generative Artificial intelligence approaches akin to those behind Midjourney and DALL-E 2 to tackle industry challenges with gene therapy delivery. By incorporating diffusion models, our platform is designing novel medicines that transcend the boundaries of what is possible experimentally. Our collaboration with Otsuka marks an exciting chapter in our journey as we extend the reach and impact of our technologies to help as many patients as possible.”

– Francois Vigneault, PhD, co-founder and chief executive officer of ShapeTX

For Otsuka, this partnership represents its latest endeavor to bolster its portfolio across a wide spectrum of diseases. This initiative follows Otsuka’s recent acquisition of Mindset, a psychedelic company, for $59 million, which included the acquisition of Mindset’s lead psilocybin-like conjugate.

Otsuka has maintained an ophthalmology division since 1992 and currently produces several combination treatments for glaucoma and ocular hypertension for use in Asia.

Shape Therapeutics has garnered attention in recent years through its collaboration with Roche, which spans areas like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and rare diseases. The Seattle-based company has gained recognition, even earning a spot on last year’s Fierce 15 list. Notably, Shape employs RNA technology to develop treatments capable of correcting malfunctioning proteins resulting from disease-causing gene mutations. Importantly, these treatments avoid permanent modifications to the DNA, differentiating them from CRISPR-based approaches.

“Otsuka has drug discovery expertise in a broad range of therapeutic areas including central nervous systems (CNS), nephrology and ophthalmology. Our recent research activities have led to identification of target molecules and antibodies for specific ocular diseases of interest with high unmet medical needs. Our collaboration with ShapeTX aims to enable delivery of vectorized antibody drugs in combination with AAV, in order to target specific disease cell types in the eye and provide a once-in-a-lifetime and curative administration with stable lifetime expression. This holds the potential to become dramatically beneficial to patients who have suffered from specific, chronic ocular diseases.”

– Toshiki Sudo, Ph.D., executive director, head of Osaka Research Center for Drug Discovery at Otsuka Pharmaceutical

This collaboration signifies Otsuka’s commitment to diversifying its therapeutic offerings and harnessing cutting-edge RNA technology to tackle serious eye diseases. It marks an exciting step in the evolution of ocular disease treatment and the pharmaceutical industry’s continued pursuit of innovative solutions.

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