Zoion Pharma of Durham has formed a collaboration with the French veterinary company Ceva Santé Animale to develop a treatment for eye diseases in companion animals.

The companies did not disclose financial terms of the collaboration which gives Ceva worldwide development and commercial rights to Zoion’s drug candidate ZP-1, which Zoion has been targeting as a dry-eye treatment for dogs.

Technically, it’s an epithelial sodium channel inhibitor for the treatment of veterinary ocular surface diseases involving a lack of surface hydration, such as keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), commonly called dry eye.

“KCS is a disease that causes much pain and discomfort, particularly in dogs,” said Jon Alšėnas, D.V.M., president and CEO of Zoion. “If left untreated, severe cases may lead to blindness.”

Drug originally discovered by Parion Sciences

ZP-1 has successfully completed a proof-of-concept clinical trial in canine dry eye. It was originally discovered by Parion Sciences of Durham and then licensed to Zoion for veterinary use.

“Ceva is the ideal partner to bring this potentially very exciting new therapy to companion animals and their owners around the world,” Alšėnas said.

Ceva is a global veterinary health company focused on research, development, production and marketing of pharmaceutical products and vaccines for companion animals, livestock, swine and poultry. It is headquartered in Libourne, France, and has more than 3,500 employees.

Zoion bootstrapped with NCBiotech loans

Zoion was established in 2011 to identify, source and develop novel or overlooked drugs specifically for use in the treatment of companion animal diseases of high unmet medical need. The North Carolina Biotechnology Center bootstrapped the company in 2011 with a $30,000 Company Inception Loan followed by a $50,000 Small Business Research Loan in 2012.

Parion Sciences, a 1999 spinout of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,  is  a  development-stage  biopharmaceutical  company dedicated  to  research, development  and  commercialization  of  treatments  for lung and eye disorders caused by  mucosal  surface  defense  deficiencies, including cystic fibrosis.  The company received a $100,000 Collaborative Funding Grant from NCBiotech in 2009 to advance its research.

In 2015 Parion signed a collaboration agreement with Vertex Pharmaceuticals giving Vertex worldwide development and commercial rights to two of its epithelial sodium channel inhibitors for the potential treatment of cystic fibrosis and other pulmonary diseases. That deal included an $80 million upfront payment and up to $1.2 billion plus royalties, if certain milestones are met.

(C) N.C. Biotechnology Center