Novartis has announced its acquisition of Arctos Medical as it looks to expand its gene therapy pipeline further, adding a pre-clinical optogenetics-based AAV gene therapy programme to its portfolio.

As part of the takeover, Novartis will also add Arctos’ proprietary technology to its ophthalmology portfolio – this technology is a potential method for treating inherited retinal dystrophies (IRDs) and other diseases that involve photoreceptor loss.

While existing gene therapy treatments aim to correct a specific gene, Novartis said in a statement that Arctos’ technology is not limited to one gene, and can potentially address many forms of IRDs, regardless of the underlying mutation.

Arctos’ optogene is delivered to specific retinal cells using gene therapy, turning targeted cells into replacement photoreceptor-like cells.

“Optogenetics is emerging as a promising therapeutic approach that might restore sight to patients who are legally blind,” said Jay Bradner, president of the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research.

“The Arctos technology builds on our conviction that optogenetic gene therapies may meaningfully help patients battling devastating eye diseases,” he added.

“We’ve watched this technology develop and mature into a therapeutic program that complements our existing portfolio and gives us new optogenetics technology to wield in our efforts to bring desperately needed therapeutic options to patients for these blinding diseases,” said Cynthia Grosskreutz, global head of ophthalmology at the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research.