Genentech pursues sustained-delivery version of blockbuster eye drug Lucentis

Ah, progress. Genentech has overcome an initial hurtle in its push to develop a sustained-delivery version of Lucentis, the company's blockbuster drug for age-related macular degeneration.

The California biotech--Roche's U.S. unit--said it has made its first milestone payment to the startup ForSight Vision4 as part of its development program. Neither company disclosed how big the payment actually is and aren't chatting about the details. But Genentech notes that it inked a deal giving it exclusive global rights to both develop and commercialize ForSight Vision4's implantable ocular device along with targeted eye therapies.

Genentech handed over its payment after deciding to submit an IND on clinical testing of Lucentis combined with the ForSight device, the company explained. Genentech will have to fork over more cash for additional milestone payments and on any royalties from future sales.

Lucentis is FDA-approved since 2006 to treat two eye conditions through monthly eye injections: neovascular (wet) age-related macular degeneration and macular edema after retinal vein occlusion. Patients with either can lose their vision or go blind. The drug generates billions in revenue, helping to explain Genentech's pursuit to expand how it can be delivered. Genentech's proposed drug/device combination is a "refillable drug port delivery system" that would release Lucentis over weeks and months, Genentech explains in its announcement.

Genentech has been fiercely protective of Lucentis. Earlier this month, it partly settled a patent dispute with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, which recently launched the new injectable eye drug Eylea—Lucentis' first competitor. As part of the deal, Regeneron will give Genentech a $60 million milestone payment once Eylea sales reach $400 million and pay royalties when sales surpass that number up to $3 billion.

- here's the release

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