UK drugmaker Oxford BioMedica's stock was given a nudge this week as shareholders welcomed encouraging results from a Phase I study of its gene-based eye therapy RetinoStat.

The first dose level of RetinoStat was found to be safe and well-tolerated at one month following treatment in an ongoing US-based Phase I clinical trial assessing its potential as a therapy for neovascular wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

The condition is a major cause of blindness that already affects up to 30 million people around the globe and is expected to triple by 2025, highlighting the urgent need for new and effective treatments.

The lead candidate of its ocular agreement with Sanofi, RetinoStat is designed to deliver two anti-angiogenic genes - endostatin and angiostatin - straight to the retina via Oxford BioMedica’s LentiVector gene delivery technology, and thereby preserve and even improve vision through blocking the formation of new blood vessels.

The current Phase I trial plans to enroll 18 patients and is designed to assess safety, visual acuity and ocular physiology at three different doses of the drug, and first results are expected to be published sometime in the first half of 2012.

According to Oxford BioMedica's chief executive John Dawson, the study "is breaking new ground as the first to directly administer a lentiviral vector-based treatment to patients in the US and the favourable safety profile of RetinoStat is encouraging".