Ikarovec awarded grant by Innovate UK to develop new wet AMD gene therapy

UKI2S Accelerator funding leverages recent investment & advances pipeline


Ikarovec, which is developing novel gene therapies to treat major ophthalmic indications, has been awarded £458,740 by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, to accelerate development of its wet-form age-related macular degeneration (wAMD) product. The grant, made under the UKI2S Innovate Accelerator Programme1, is being matched by investment made into the company by LifeArc, Parkwalk and UKI2S in its recent seed round. This new funding for Ikarovec’s early stage wAMD product provides additional resource with which to accelerate its development, while the seed funds are being used primarily to advance the company’s lead programme in diabetic macular edema.

The wAMD product is a novel bicistronic gene therapy that will both reduce blood vessel leakage and address detrimental changes to the retina as the disease progresses. It is expected to provide long-term effectiveness via a single injection and reduced risk of scarring compared with current treatment regimens. This would mean clinical benefit without the drawback of monthly antibody injections.

The aim of the Innovate UK project, ‘The development of a novel gene therapy to treat age-related macular degeneration’, is to show effectiveness in preclinical models, enabling further work in preparation for a clinical trial. Work will also be carried out on optimising the manufacturing process.

Ikarovec launched earlier this year with £2.5m of seed funding from UKI2S with co-investment from LifeArc and Parkwalk. The company was founded in 2019 by Chief Scientific Officer Dr Peter Widdowson, around intellectual property spun out of Quethera, which he founded and was bought by Astellas in 2018.

Robert Haigh, Executive Chairman of Ikarovec, said, ‘Bringing validation of our novel gene therapy and the opportunity to accelerate development of our pipeline, we are delighted to receive this grant from Innovate UK. Ikarovec believes its approach has great potential in the treatment of the debilitating disease of wet AMD, with significant advantages over existing therapies and those in development.’


1 For more information on UKI2S Innovate Accelerator Programme click here

For further information, please contact
Robert Haigh, Executive Chairman
[email protected]
Emma Palmer Foster, Communications

+ 44 (0)7880 787185

Notes for Editors
About Ikarovec
Established in 2019, Ikarovec is developing novel, differentiated gene therapies for major ophthalmic indications. Its lead product, a multicistronic gene therapy for diabetic macular edema, is in preclinical studies, and earlier programmes are targeting wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD), dry AMD and intra-ocular hypertension. Building on intellectual property spun-out of Quethera (bought by Astellas in 2018), Ikarovec was founded by UKI2S and recently raised a £2.5m seed round with co-funding from LifeArc and Parkwalk Advisers. There is an experienced senior management team in place with business development and commercial success in ophthalmology and gene therapy – Dr Peter Widdowson (ex Quethera) is Founder and Chief Scientific Officer, and Dr Robert Haigh (ex KalVista) is Executive Chairman.

About age-related macular degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye condition affecting the central part of the retina (the macula) and is the leading cause of vision loss in the over 65s. The wet form of the disease (wet AMD; wAMD) can develop quickly, causing serious changes to central vision in a short period of time. Around 600,000 mainly elderly people in the UK currently have sight loss caused by AMD, with around 70,000 new cases each year. Globally the incidence of wAMD affects around 170 million people. The burden on the NHS is considerable, with costs estimated at around £1.6 billion annually. Current treatment approaches require monthly visits to ophthalmic surgeons for intravitreal injection of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) inhibitors. The injections are uncomfortable leading to low patient compliance, expose the patient to risk of ocular infection, can cause corneal scarring and over time retinal/macular fibrosis, which limits the long-term improvements associated with these therapies. There is therefore a large unmet need and commercial opportunity for an effective, safer and more patient friendly treatment of wAMD.

About Innovate UK
Innovate UK drives productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses
to develop and realise the potential of new ideas. We connect businesses to the partners, customers and investors that can help them turn ideas into commercially successful products and services and business growth. We fund business and research collaborations to accelerate innovation and drive business investment into R&D. Our support is available to businesses across all economic sectors, value chains and UK regions. Innovate UK is part of UK Research and Innovation. For more information visit www.innovateuk.ukri.org