The comments from Benjamin Yerxa, chief executive of the Foundation Fighting Blindness, followed the presentation of data from a phase I/IIa clinical study by trial investigator Pravin Dugel.
He has been working on ReNeuron’s human retinal progenitor (hRPC) stem cell line, which has shown early promise improving, or stabilising clarity of vision in people with the degenerative disease retinitis pigmentosa.
American Academy of Ophthalmology
Dugel's address to the American Academy of Ophthalmology Annual Meeting in San Francisco was based on the latest results from the clinical assessment of the drug candidate, published on October 2.
After the presentation, Yerxa said: "We're excited by the progress of ReNeuron's hRPC therapy.
“From the Foundation's perspective, any gain in vision, or even stabilisation, is a major step forward for patients with RP as currently it is a condition where progressive loss of vision leads to blindness."
'Rapid and profound' results
Earlier this month ReNeuron said it had seen “rapid and profound” results in the first three patients of the second phase of clinical studies of its human retinal progenitor cells.
The phase IIa trials saw noticeable improvements in visual acuity as measured by the number of letters that could be read on a standard eye chart.
Six months after treatment there was a mean improvement of 18.5 letters per treated eye, with a mean improvement of 12 letters per treated eye after nine months, whereas inexorable disease progression is the norm for this disease.
With total of 22 patients now treated and the study still ongoing, ReNeuron said the efficacy in subsequent patients was seen but at a lower rate and magnitude, with improvement in visual acuity ranging from +5 to +11 letters in the treated eye three months after treatment.
“I believe that we are seeing a clear signal of efficacy in this patient population where any gain in vision, let alone the levels seen in some of these patients, is so hard to come by and so very much appreciated," said Dr Pravin Dugel, managing partner at Retinal Consultants of Arizona and clinical professor at the Roski Eye Institute in Los Angeles.