Opthea (ASX:OPT) combatting macular degeneration


by Ortenzia Borre

Opthea Limited (ASX:OPT) Managing Director and CEO, Dr Megan Baldwin talks about results from the company's lead drug candidate OPT-302, and new funding for further clinical development for wet AMD (age-related macular degeneration) and DME (diabetic macular degeneration).

Ortenzia Borre:
Hello I'm Ortenzia Borre for the Finance News Network. Joining me today is Opthea (ASX:OPT) Managing Director and CEO Dr Megan Baldwin. Megan welcome to FNN.

Dr Megan Baldwin: Thank you.

Ortenzia Borre: Now, Opthea (ASX:OPT) is tackling age and diabetes related eye illnesses. How's progress going?

Dr Megan Baldwin: Progress is going very well. We have had a fantastic 12 months and it's been the culmination of a number of years’ work for the company. In the last number of months we actually reported out positive data from our phase 2b clinical study and wet age related macular degeneration, which is a very prevalent eye disease that affects the back of the eye and actually causes vision loss in patients if they're left untreated. In that trial we asked the question, “If we add OPT-302, our drug at Opthea (ASX:OPT), to the existing treatments for wet AMD do patients actually have a better vision improvement than what they would otherwise achieve just on standard of care treatment alone?”.

Ortenzia Borre: What was the outcome?

Dr Megan Baldwin: The outcome was very exciting. We actually showed that we do indeed improve visual acuity when we add our drug onto the existing treatments. That's very important because we address an unmet medical need. That has consequences for people being able to see better. It means that they can have a meaningful improvement in their quality of life and meaningful improvement in their ability to read, recognise faces, perhaps drive a car. But the important thing is that we can actually change the outcome for patients by adding our drug onto existing treatments. That's a very large commercial opportunity for Opthea (ASX:OPT) as well.

Ortenzia Borre: What's next for OPT-302?

Dr Megan Baldwin: So, that's the phase III clinical development program. That's the final step before commercialisation of the drug. Very similar to what we did in the phase 2b clinical study but the trials are slightly bigger with more patients and we dose them for a longer period of time. So we'll be dosing patients not for six months this time but actually for 12 months. Then asking the question, on a larger scale, “Does our drug actually give a vision benefit to patients when we treat them globally, in addition to their standard of care treatment?”.

Ortenzia Borre: Could you update us on diabetic macular edema?

Dr Megan Baldwin: Sure. Diabetic macular edema is actually the leading cause of diabetes related blindness. It's a consequence of uncontrolled hyperglycemia, which occurs in diabetic patients, which as we know is a global epidemic. Our drug, OPT-302, is also being tested in this second disease indication for the company. It's an unmet medical need, so many patients don't respond optimally to the existing treatments. So we're asking the question, again, 'If we add our drug to the existing therapies for DME do those patients actually have a better vision outcome?'

Dr Megan Baldwin: Our DME clinical trial is a phase 2a clinical trial. It's fully recruited. We announced that at the start of this year. We expect to report out data from that phase 2a clinical trial in the second quarter of calendar year 2020, so we're very excited about the potential of the drug now in a second disease indication.

Ortenzia Borre: Now to your finances and the share price. Can you give us an update?

Dr Megan Baldwin: Yeah. We've had a fantastic market response to the very positive data that we've announced to the market in wet AMD. We've seen almost a 400% increase in our share price over the last 12 months but there's still room for growth because we do have additional clinical milestones coming up and there's very broad development potential for OPT-302 in general.

Ortenzia Borre: Can you give me an update on your cash position and funding?

Dr Megan Baldwin: Sure. We have, at the end of 2019, so December 31, finished the year with approximately $75 million Australian dollars cash in bank. That is on the back of a successful financing that we completed in December of $50 million. That financing and the existing cash that we have is to take us through, approximately, the next 12 months of activities. Those activities cover the manufacture of our drug, which is required prior to the start of patient recruitment in that final phase of clinical development. But we're also doing a lot of the phase III preparatory activities that we need to do before we can start recruiting patients in that final stage as well. So we're in a very strong cash position and we have a very good investor base, with a number of institutional investors from around the world that see the inherent value and potential of our asset to make a difference for patients.

Ortenzia Borre: So where would you like to see the company in 12 months time?

Dr Megan Baldwin: I want to see further returns for shareholders and I want to see us progress OPT-302 closer to the clinic in phase III, which will enable us and take us one step closer to commercialisation. Look, more room to grow and to build on the successes that we've had in 12 months, so watch this space. I think on the basis of our data and our very strong cash position we're in a very good position to be able to deliver on that.

Ortenzia Borre: Dr Megan Baldwin thank you so much for joining us today on FNN and updating us.

Dr Megan Baldwin: Thank you very much.