SAN FRANCISCO—Ray Therapeutics, a leading optogenetics company, announced that the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) has awarded the company a $4 million grant to support development of RTx-021, an optogenetic therapy for the treatment of geographic atrophy (GA), the advanced form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). RTx-021 is a next-generation visual optogenetic gene therapy to improve vision in patients with GA. The treatment delivers light sensing channel rhodopsin to retinal cells, to potentially restore vision using the power of optogenetics.

Visual optogenetics is a disruptive technology that uses adeno-associated virus (AAV)-based gene therapy to deliver a payload expressing an optogenetic protein to the retina using a simple office-based procedure.

“RTx-021 has the potential to address a significant unmet need for patients with GA AMD. The additional funding and strategic support from CIRM will accelerate development of our optogenetics candidate into clinical trials for blind and nearly-blind patients in desperate need of new therapies, without the need for supplementary eyewear or devices for additional light stimulation,” said Paul Bresge, chief executive officer, Ray Therapeutics.

“The positive vote of confidence from CIRM provides strong validation for our scientific rationale, program development and team. We look forward to advancing our candidate into clinical trials in GA AMD where patients have limited options,” Bresge said.

“Our goal is to always move the most promising research forward as fast as we can,” added Dr. Abla Creasey, vice president of therapeutics development, California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). “A next-generation visual optogenetic gene therapy treatment for geographic atrophy (GA) age-related macular degeneration would have significant impact for patients with this degenerative disorder. We look forward to supporting the company in bringing this life-changing regenerative therapy to patients with degenerative blinding disorders.”