Eyevensys appoints Dr Ivan Cohen-Tanugi as CEO

Eyevensys, a company developing a new non-viral gene therapy process to treat ocular illnesses that enables prolonged production of all therapeutic proteins through electrotransfer, today announces the appointment of Dr Ivan Cohen-Tanugi as CEO. 

Having worked for Sanofi, Amgen International, Roche Pharma and Teva Pharmaceuticals, Dr Cohen-Tanugi first plans to conclude Eyevensys’ preclinical tests over the next 12 months. The first human tests are planned within 18 months.

The Eyevensys process is an electrotransfer of plasmids in the ciliary muscle of the eye. The Eyevensys team is one of a small group that has reached an advanced stage of development of the process using a non-viral approach. This treatment is less invasive than current treatments. It allows for injections to be administered from either once a fortnight or monthly to once every six months. This reduces the dose of drugs and proteins, consequently reducing side effects. The first preclinical results from animal subjects show therapeutic protein expressions for up to nine months. These results have been the focus of articles published in reputed scientific journals.

“I am delighted to have been given the responsibility of leading Eyevensys through to the next stages of its development,” said Dr Ivan Cohen-Tanugi , CEO at Eyevensys. “Eyevensys is backed by stable and trusted investors who are very involved in the business’ development. A new financing round is planned for this year. We hope to sign up new stakeholders, notably on an international level, to diversify our support and proceed up to Phase II.”

“Ivan Cohen-Tanugi’s extensive experience in the pharmaceutical and biotechnological fields will contribute to Eyevensys’ ability to move at a faster pace and proceed to the clinical phase in the best possible circumstances,” said professor Francine Behar-Cohen, Eyevensys’s founder and scientific advisor. “Our key goal is to discover proofs of concept for the electrotransfer process in humans.”

The company targets two main indications, where medical needs are currently urgent and unmet:

Uveitis, an orphan disease, is an inflammation of the uvea (iris, ciliary body and/or choroid). It causes 10 per cent of cases of blindness in Western countries.

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a disease caused by a gradual degeneration of the macula, the central part of the retina, which can appear from age 50 and more frequently from age 65. It causes a significant weakening of visual capabilities, but does not destroy them. The exact causes of this condition are unknown. No cure has yet been found. Existing treatments can only slow its progression. As much as 12 per cent of the population between ages 65 and 75 have AMD. It is the leading cause of non-correctable blindness in the western world. Due to population aging, its prevalence may increase by nearly 50 per cent by 2020. Worldwide, an estimated 25 million people are affected.

Dr Cohen-Tanugi, aged 51, has more than 20 years of experience in the international pharmaceutical and biotechnological industry. Before joining Eyevensys, he was vice president and general manager of the Biologics and Specialty unit at Teva Pharmaceuticals in the USA. He has considerable experience in biologics and the pharmaceutical industry on an international level, notably in the fields of sales and marketing, global product launches, R&D team leadership and financing. He worked in Switzerland for many years for Roche Pharma, then for Amgen International and finally for Teva Pharmaceuticals. Cohen-Tanugi started his career at Sanofi, where he held various positions in France and the USA. He is trained as a doctor and also holds an MBA from the HEC Business School.

About Eyevensyshttp://www.eyevensys.com

Eyevensys is a developer of a new non-viral gene therapy process to treat ocular illnesses that enables prolonged production of all therapeutic proteins through electrotransfer. On the basis of work conducted by professor Francine Behar-Cohen (Inserm Unit, U872, Centre de Recherche des Cordeliers), Eyevensys has filed 11 patents, of which they retain exclusivity. The single-use device is designed to treat various ocular illnesses.

The scientific team intends to make this technology a first-line treatment for uveitis, an orphan illness and for AMD. In stage two, Eyevensys will focus on much more common conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, for which repeated intraocular protein injections remain very restrictive. It is based on proofs of concept, backed by laboratory testing on animal subjects.

Eyevensys, founded in 2009, is based in Paris and employs five people. It raised EUR 1.6 million in January 2012 from Cap Decisif Management, InnoBio, managed by CDC Entreprises and Inserm-Transfert. Eyevensys was founded by Francine Behar-Cohen, professor of medicine at Paris Descartes University, head of ophthalmology at l’Hotel Dieu and director of team 17 at Inserm UMRS872.