The discovery that tavilermide induces the production of mucin, a crucial lubricant in tears, offers hope of relief to people who suffer from chronic dry eye disease. The invention and the development of a drug based on this small molecule was made by the team of Dr. H. Uri Saragovi, Senior Investigator at the Lady Davis Institute (LDI) at the Jewish General Hospital and Professor of Pharmacology at McGill University.
“As there is currently no treatment available for dry eye disease, we are very excited that tavilermide, taken in the form of an eye drop, can help millions of patients who suffer from this disease,” said Dr. Saragovi, who also lead the research team that revealed how tavilermide stimulates the production of mucin in his lab at the LDI.
Already completed Phase 2 clinical trials with 1% tavilermide demonstrated significant improvement in both signs and symptoms of dry eye over placebo, with absolutely no adverse side effects.
This technology has recently been licensed by Allergan, a leading global pharmaceutical company, from Mimetogen Pharmaceuticals, a Montreal biotechnology company, for an upfront payment of $50 million, plus potential milestone and royalty fees. Mimetogen was initially funded by Montreal investors who shared the vision that local talent deserved support, namely by iNovia’s MSBi Fund (led by Mark de Groot, and Cedric Bisson) as well as by MSBi Valorisation.
Two phase 3 trials have already been successfully completed. It is expected that the final phase 3 trial undertaken by Allergan should quickly confirm its designation as a treatment for all stages of dry eye disease, enabling it to be brought to market shortly thereafter. Dry eye disease, which afflicts more than 25 million people in North America, first presents itself as an inability to produce moisture to lubricate the eye. As a result of the constant irritation that ensues, it is compounded by inflammation. Because there is no cure or effective treatment, the condition eventually leads to the degeneration of the sensory nerves in the cornea. By stimulating the production of mucin, tavilermide will keep the eye moist and avert inflammation. It may also stimulate re-innervation.
"Mimetogen is excited to work together with Allergan, the recognized leader in developing effective therapies to treat dry eye disease," noted Garth Cumberlidge, PhD, Mimetogen President and CEO. "I am very proud of our Mimetogen colleagues who have worked very hard to develop tavilermide, and look forward to working with Allergan to advance this important development program for patients."
Dr. Saragovi’s discovery is beating the odds, which are stacked against any scientific discovery making the long journey from lab bench to clinic. Only one in 100 pharmaceutical discoveries make it to a phase 3 trial, and only one in ten of those actually get to market, where they can help patients. That so much progress has been made on tavilermide by a small team of researchers is to the credit of the Jewish General Hospital and McGill University, both of which stand to benefit from the successful commercialization of this compound.