Ceva enters pact with Zoion to develop treatment for dry eye in dogs

Eye diseases have become so prevalent in pets that the number of veterinarians certified in ophthalmology has jumped 33% in the past 5 years to more than 400 in the U.S. alone, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Now several animal health companies are answering the call for new products to treat eye diseases, among them France's Ceva Santé Animale.

On January 19, Ceva announced it has entered into a collaboration agreement with Zoion Pharma of Durham, NC, to develop an epithelial sodium channel (ENaC) inhibitor for the treatment of disorders that affect ocular surfaces in animals. One such disease is keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), more commonly known as dry eye. Under the agreement, Ceva will gain worldwide development and commercial rights to Zoion's ZP-1 (P-1046), which has completed a proof-of-concept study in dogs, according to a press release announcing the deal.

Zoion was founded in 2011 with the mission of developing drugs for veterinary disorders, according to the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. The company licensed ZP-1 from Parion Sciences and in 2012 secured a small business research loan of $50,000 from the NC Biotechnology Center to kick off the R&D process.

"KCS is a disease that causes much pain and discomfort, particularly in dogs. If left untreated, severe cases may lead to blindness," said Jon Alšėnas, CEO of Zoion Pharma, in the press release. The financials of the deal were not disclosed.

Ceva has long been a leader in poultry health--it is one of two companies appointed by the USDA to help build a stockpile of avian influenza vaccine, for example--but the company has been working over the past few years to expand into other sectors of animal health. In the fall, it introduced a vaccine to protect swine against a common bacterial respiratory disease called Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae. The company is also the only manufacturer of chloramphenicol to treat chlamydia in animals, which it recently made available in Australia to control an outbreak among koalas.

Ceva is far from alone in its desire to enter the growing field of veterinary ophthalmology. The Ceva/Zoion deal comes close on the heels of an agreement between Swiss startup Gour Medical and Medicom Healthcare, which are teaming up to offer a line of eye wipes and lubricants for pets.

- here's Ceva's press release