Wayne State University startup RetroSense Therapeutics LLC has been named one of the 50 Smartest Companies by the MIT Technology Review. The 50 Smartest Companies represent the businesses that are the most ambitious, creative and fixated on bringing radical new technologies to life.
RetroSense joins the ranks of Amazon, Microsoft, Snapchat, Facebook, Tesla Motors and 44 other companies that the review noted as being “smart” in the way they create new opportunities.
The MIT Technology Review noted that Retrosense Therapeutics — headquartered in Ann Arbor, Mich., — is notable for its use of optogenetics, a technology that uses a combination of gene therapy and light to precisely control nerves. “In its treatment of retinitis pigmentosa, the eye is injected with viruses carrying DNA from light-sensitive algae,” the publication stated. “This is intended to confer light sensitivity on certain nerve cells in the eye.”
RetroSense Therapeutics LLC, a privately held biopharmaceutical company, successfully dosed its first patient in the first clinical trial to evaluate the safety of RST-001 in March. The study, “Phase I/IIa, Open-Label, Dose-Escalation Study of Safety and Tolerability of Uniocular Intravitreal RST-001 in Patients with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP),” is designed to restore some vision in patients with RP, a genetic condition that leads to the progressive degeneration of rod and cone photoreceptors — light-sensing cells found in the retina — resulting in severe vision loss and blindness.
The technology is a result of several years of research and collaboration with researchers at leading institutions, including Zhuo-Hua Pan, Ph.D., the Edward T. and Ellen K. Dryer Endowed Professor, professor of Ophthalmology and of Anatomy and Cell Biology, and scientific director of the Ligon Research Center of Vision/Kresge Eye Institute at Wayne State University’s School of Medicine; and Richard Masland, Ph.D., at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, early pioneers in optogenetics for vision restoration.
“This is exciting recognition for RetroSense and all of its efforts in finding a way to restore sight,” said Joan Dunbar, Ph.D., associate vice president for technology commercialization at Wayne State University. “Without the efforts of Sean Ainsworth, RetroSense’s CEO, the company would not be in patient clinical trial stages. It is Sean’s critical efforts that are bringing Drs. Pan and Masland’s important research to life, and hopefully they will be successfully taking their clinical trials to the bedside in the near future.”
“This is another example of the strong innovation ecosystem here in Detroit and at Wayne State University,” said Stephen Lanier, Ph.D., vice president for Research at Wayne State. “It’s very nice to see RetroSense being recognized for moving this technology forward, which has the potential for broad impact.”
For more information about RetroSense Therapeutics, visit retro-sense.com.
For more information about the MIT Technology Review’s “50 Smartest Companies 2016,” visit technologyreview.com/lists/companies/2016/.