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Yuyang DNU launches a joint venture in U.S.

Oct 08,2019
Yuyang DNU is hoping to raise its profile in the global biopharmaceutical market by launching a joint venture in the United States with the U.S. Neural Stem Cell Institute (NSCI).

The Korean company said in a press conference Monday that the new venture, named Luxa Biotechnology, hopes to commercialize the world’s first treatment for dry age-related macular degeneration (D-AMD) by starting a Phase 1 clinical trial within next year.

Age-related macular degeneration is a disease that typically occurs in older people characterized by damage of retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) inside human eyes, causing a gradual loss of vision.

The medical condition is divided into dry and wet forms with the dry form taking up 90 percent of cases. While there are treatments currently available for the wet form, there is no authorized treatment yet for D-AMD.

Luxa Biotechnology, owned 50:50 by Yuyang DNU and NSCI - the first non-profit stem cell research institute in the United States, established in 2007 - wants to develop the first treatment for the dry form based on stem cells.

Unlike other stem cell-based therapy candidates for D-AMD, the new venture’s therapy uses stem cells derived from RPE itself and stimulates regeneration of those cells. According to market tracker GlobalData, the global market for D-AMD treatment is expected to grow from $6.2 billion in 2017 to $9.3 billion by 2021 as the number of older people increases worldwide.

“It was proven from trials on rats that our RPE stem cell treatment made significant improvements in vision and sustainability of the effect,” said Sally Temple, head of research and development (R&D) at the new venture. “Using RPE stem cells is also safer for being less tumorigenic than other stem cell treatment candidates for D-AMD being developed at this point.”

Yuyang DNU, which made its entry into the biotech sector in 2018, has been working to develop therapies that address unmet medical needs.

The company, which started in 1976 as a TV parts manufacturer, established its first biotech joint venture in the United States last year, Lenus Therapeutics, which is owned 50:50 with GtreeBNT.

Including the D-AMD treatment, Yuyang DNU has four drugs in its pipeline, with RGN-137, an experimental therapy for wound healing for epidermolysis bullosa patients, awaiting Phase 3 clinical trials in the United States.

BY KO JUN-TAE [ko.juntae@joongang.co.kr]