Healthcare & Pharmaceuticals

Novartis buys gene therapy firm Arctos Medical in vision loss treatment push

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Novartis' logo is seen at the cell and gene therapy factory of the Swiss drugmaker in Stein, Switzerland, November 28, 2019. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

ZURICH, Sept 21 (Reuters) - Swiss drugmaker Novartis (NOVN.S) said on Tuesday it has bought gene therapy specialist Arctos Medical for an undisclosed amount, aiming to boost its efforts to find treatments for severe vision loss.

Arctos's technology is a potential way to treat inherited retinal dystrophies (IRDs) and other diseases that involve photoreceptor loss, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Existing gene therapy treatments aim to correct a specific gene, so only a small number of patients can benefit, Novartis said. The Arctos technology is not limited to a specific gene, and can potentially address many forms of IRDs, it said.

IRDs affect more than 2 million people globally and often result in complete blindness. AMD, meanwhile, affects an estimated 170 million people globally, Novartis said.

The acquisition underscores its commitment to using optogenetics-based therapies to restore vision to patients with advanced blindness, the company said.

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

Reporting by John Revill; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Devika Syamnath

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