jCyte, founded by Dr. Henry Klassen and Dr. Jing Yang of UC Irvine’s School of Medicine, is most known for its work in developing a treatment for retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic degenerative retinal condition that typically emerges in a patient’s teens and often leads to blindness by middle age.
According to the National Eye Institute, roughly 1 in 4,000 people worldwide are affected by the disorder whose symptoms include night blindness, narrowing of the visual field and decreased visual acuity.
The technology that makes jCyte’s treatment possible is their stem cell therapy called jCell. jCell uses retinal progenitor cells – or immature cells from the retina that can develop into rods and cones – to both rescue damaged retinal cells and slow the progression of the disease.
With this exclusive partnership, Santen Pharmaceutical will be allowed to develop and commercialize the jCell technology in Europe, Asia and Japan so patients outside of the U.S. can have access to treatment.
“We are very pleased to see jCyte successfully partner this technology,” said Casie Kelly, assistant director of Licensing at UCI Beall Applied Innovation. “The jCyte team is an incredibly dedicated group of individuals and we look forward to more success with this program.”
Under the terms of the agreement, jCyte will receive an upfront fee of $50 million in cash, $12 million in a convertible note offering and up to an additional $190 million for milestone payments based on regulatory approval and initial sales in Europe, Asia and Japan. Additionally, jCyte is entitled to royalty payments on net sales of the jCell therapy once it is commercialized outside of the U.S.
“This is exciting news and we are very grateful to Dr. Henry Klassen and Dr. Jing Yang for their brilliant scientific work and continued dedication to the development of our investigational therapy, jCell,” said Paul Bresge, CEO of jCyte. “Our team has worked hard together over many years, and our recent licensing deal with Santen is an important milestone for our company, and most importantly, to patients who are counting on us. We are also greatly appreciative of all of the support that we have received from California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, as well as the staff at UCI and the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute.”
Read the full press release.
*Main graphic: Amy Vong