ESCRS 2023: Greg Kunst looks ahead at the next 5 years of Aurion Biotech’s cell therapies


In a conversation at ESCRS, the CEO said by 2028, Aurion Biotech hopes to see global registration for its corneal endothelial disease therapies.

Ophthalmology Times Europe attended this year's European Society Of Cataract & Refractive Surgeons (ESCRS) meeting in Vienna, Austria. Greg Kunst, CEO of Aurion Biotech, stopped by our booth to talk about the future of cell therapy and endothelial corneal disease.

Editor's note: this transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Greg Kunst: I'm Greg Kunst, CEO of Aurion Biotech, a cell therapy company developing cell therapies for corneal endothelial disease. And what we've presented this week at ESCRS is a meta-analysis of the various studies that we've run in Japan and El Salvador.

What we've seen thus far in cell therapy for corneal endothelial disease, we're seeing about 90 plus percent of patients get 3 lines of improvement, which, if we compare that to other areas in ophthalmology, it's a remarkable improvement and number of patients that gain 3 lines of vision or greater. And so we're excited to talk about that. I think we're onto something that's transformational. It's something that will change the way we address corneal disease going forward. And you'll look forward to the next couple of years as we go through the regulatory process.

In this meta-analysis, we looked at 3 different trials. My experience on ophthalmology has been such that when you look at different trials you see differential results. What we saw on the trial in Japan, and the 2 in El Salvador, is very similar results trial by trial with our cell therapy. And so I think it gives us great confidence as we go into our our Phase II study that we're going to see results that are equally similar, but also a product that's highly approvable. And I think more important for ophthalmologists is cell therapy is coming. We know it works. It's going to be here on our doorstep here soon. And we'll have the ability to treat a number of patients today that can't access treatment because of lack of either corneal tissue, or lack of people that do DMEK (Descemet membrane endothelial keratoplasty) and DSAEK (Descemet stripping automated endothelial keratoplasty) surgeries around the world.

We will dose our first patient here in the next 4 to 6 weeks. That trial is going to be a US trial, it's a Phase II trial of 100 patients. Once we complete that, we'll run 2 Phase III trials. Those will be global trials, and we'll seek registration in most of the world in 2027 and 2028. So we're not far away from this dream of having cell therapy available in ophthalmology and corneal endothelial disease. At this stage, we've got a drug we know that works and it's, you know, run the trials and then register with the appropriate authorities around the world.

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