A startup co-founded by a former Inspire Pharmaceuticals executive has raised $4 million in funding from investors led by Durham-based Hatteras Venture Partners.
The company, Clearside Biomedical, is headquartered in Atlanta, but its pharmaceutical research-and-development work will be based in the Triangle and headed by Ben Yerxa, former executive vice president and chief of research and development at eye drug company Inspire. Yerxa is one of six co-founders of Clearside and is the company's vice president of research and development.
Clearside owns the rights to a micro-needle used to deliver drugs to the back of the eye and the retina that was developed by scientists at Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology. The company plans to use it for a drug it is developing to treat macular edema, or swelling of the retina, and retinal vein occlusion, a partial blockage of blood circulation away from the retina. Both conditions can lead to blindness.
"We are the only company that can nonsurgically deliver drugs" to this region of the eye, CEO Daniel White said. White previously co-founded Alimera Sciences, a publicly traded eye medication company.
The drug Clearside is developing has been shown, when tested in animals, to be longer-lasting and has fewer side effects than current treatments, Yerxa said.
Clearside could begin U.S. clinical trials within 18 months - possibly sooner in foreign markets.
That made it an attractive investment for Hatteras, said Christy Shaffer, a venture partner with the firm who heads a unit within Hatteras that focuses on investing in early stage startups.
Shaffer, who becomes chairwoman of Clearside's board of directors in conjunction with the investment, knows Yerxa well. She was Yerxa's boss when she was CEO of Inspire.