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University of Michigan Innovation Partnerships
University of Michigan Innovation Partnerships

ONL Secures Series A Funding


University of Michigan startup ONL Therapeutics, Inc. recently announced the closing of a $4.25 million Series A funding round. According to the company, which is developing novel therapeutics for preserving sight in a range of retinal diseases, these funds, along with a recently awarded $1 million grant from the National Eye Institute, “will primarily be used to finalize preclinical development of ONL1204, the company’s lead therapeutic candidate, in preparation for clinical trials as a potential treatment for retinal detachment.” These new funds, according to ONL CEO John Freshley, will also support the broadening of the company’s research of ONL1204 into other retinal diseases with significant unmet needs.

ONL1204 is a novel, first-in-class small molecule Fas inhibitor designed to protect the retina from cell death via both direct and inflammatory signaling in a range of retinal diseases. Retinal cell death is the root cause of vision loss from retinal disease and the leading cause of blindness. The company is initially developing ONL1204 for the treatment of retinal detachment, a condition for which the compound has been granted orphan drug designation by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While initial development efforts are focused on retinal detachment, preclinical in vivo data along with a growing body of literature support potential application in glaucoma, both wet and dry age related macular degeneration (AMD), and non-infectious uveitis, among others.

“This fundraising comes at a critical and exciting time for ONL as we are rapidly completing all preclinical development work for ONL1204, while also expanding our research efforts into other ocular indications,” said John Freshley, chief executive officer of ONL Therapeutics. “The support of our new and existing investors is gratifying and validates the important work that our team has done in demonstrating the role of Fas signaling and the potential of Fas inhibition in a range of ocular diseases.”

This series A funding round, which also includes the conversion of ONL’s previously announced $1.0 million bridge loan, involves both existing and new investors including Novartis, the University of Michigan’s Michigan Investment in New Technology Startups (MINTS) program, Capital Community Angels, Invest Michigan, Biosciences Research and Commercialization Center and Hestia Investments.

The U-M technology at ONL’s core was developed at the University’s Kellogg Eye Center by Professor of Ophthalmology Dr. David Zacks, who specializes in disorders of the retina.