Hong Kong biotech start-up Arctic Vision eyes leading role in China, Asia ophthalmic medicine markets

biotechnology start-up, stock market listing

Arctic Vision, a Hong Kong-based biotechnology start-up, aims to become a leading light in the US$7 billion ophthalmology drug market in Asia, particularly mainland China, with its innovative treatments for the many millions of patients with eye disorders.

Established by Hong Kong native Eddy Wu Hoi-ti in May 2019, the young company plans to launch its first product in China and seek a stock market listing in Hong Kong next year.

It has already secured financial support from a group of major investors that include Chinese internet giant Tencent and a number of big family offices in Hong Kong such as Nan Fung Group, and Adrian Cheng Chi-kong, the chief executive of New World Development.

“Innovation is at the very core of the company. We aim to lead the ophthalmology markets in China, Asia and the world through the discovery and development of innovative solutions for ophthalmic diseases,” said Wu, the chief executive of Arctic Vision.

He earned his Bachelor’s degree from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in 2002 and a PhD focusing on molecular pharmacology from his alma mater four years later.

Arctic Vision, which also has a headquarters in Shanghai, will either leverage global breakthrough technologies or its own in-house research and development capabilities to achieve its goals, he said.

The Asia-Pacific ophthalmic drugs market size is valued at around US$7.1 billion. It is expected to grow to US$9.91 billion by 2026, according to research form Market Data Forecast.

The market in China, in revenue terms, is set to grow by US$6 billion over the next six years, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17. 9 per cent, data and analytics company StrategyHelix predicts.

“There are many ways to deliver drugs . But oral and injection drugs are very difficult to reach the eye. So for eye diseases, there are not too many options combining technology and innovation,” said Wu, who spent almost 10 years at the Swiss pharmaceutical firm Novartis and was executive medical director at Dublin-based Allergan China before setting up Arctic.

The company has three products currently in clinical trials which will be used to treat uveitic macular oedema, paediatric progressive myopia and presbyopia.

Uveitis is one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide, particularly in young adults. It is estimated the prevalence of non-infectious uveitis that affects the back of the eye will reach 1.6 million in China by 2024, increasing to 1.8 million by 2030, according to Frost & Sullivan.

The first product the company wants to commercialise in China will be its medicine for macular oedema associated with uveitis, according to Wu.

In early September, the company got its first clinical trial approved in China for presbyopia treatment that provides temporary improvement of near-vision

The condition is estimated to affect nearly 1.8 billion people worldwide. Current treatment options typically involve surgery or devices such as reading glasses, contact lenses and multifocal intraocular lens implantation, according to Wu. The company’s pharmacologic treatment is a breakthrough, he said.

Wu said Arctic Vision will double its portfolio to as many as 10 products by the end of 2021, and will start preparing for their production and commercialisation.

Nan Fung Group, best known as a property developer, was quick to spot the company’s potential in 2019 and provide seed funding.

“At that time, the Chinese ophthalmology space presented a unique investment opportunity given its high growth rate and significant unmet medical needs for premium products,” Nan Fung said in an emailed statement.

“Arctic Vision has successfully secured a team of industry experts with deep ophthalmology expertise, strong leadership skills and passion to build a company focusing on innovative treatments in ophthalmology.”

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