Editor’s note: This story is another in the “Startup Spotlight” series which brings into greater view emerging and new technologies. This post is from the N.C. Biotech Center. For other stories in the series, search https://wraltechwire.com/?s=startup+spotlight.


RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK- Kriya Therapeutics is launching a new division focused on developing gene therapies for rare and prevalent ocular diseases.

The biotech startup, with headquarters in the Research Triangle and Palo Alto, California, is basing the division on the east coast. It is also appointing Theresa Heah, M.D., MBA and former AsclepiX Therapeutics executive, as its chief medical officer and president.

The news comes on the heels of its $100 million Series B financing and newly completed  51,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Research Triangle Park.

“Gene therapy has the potential to deliver transformative clinical benefits to address severe ocular diseases for which there are currently few effective treatment options,” said Shankar Ramaswamy, M.D., co-founder and chief executive officer of Kriya.

“The launch of Kriya Ophthalmology, and the appointment of Theresa to lead our specialized division focused exclusively on diseases of the eye, reflects our commitment to delivering better products to patients suffering from a range of rare and prevalent ocular diseases.”

Theresa Heah, M.D., MBA. (Kriya photo)

Heah will be responsible for advancing Kriya’s current pipeline of ophthalmology gene therapies, and expanding its ophthalmology portfolio, the company said in a statement.

Kriya is currently advancing therapeutic programs in uveitis, geographic atrophy and additional undisclosed disease areas.

At AsclepiX Therapeutics, Heah led the company’s Series A financing and advancement of its pipeline products into the clinic. Prior to that, she served as chief medical officer at Applied Genetic Technologies Corporation (AGTC), where she worked to develop gene therapies in ophthalmology and rare diseases.

She has also held several leadership positions in early-stage private companies (Fovea Pharmaceuticals), publicly traded companies (Aerie Pharmaceuticals, Allergan) and big pharmaceutical companies (Bayer Healthcare, Sanofi).

“Many still suffer from serious eye diseases for which there are no viable treatments,” she said. “There is immense untapped potential in gene therapy, and it will be our mission to uncover and advance novel medicines for the betterment of underserved patient communities.”

Founded in 2019, Kriya is the brainchild of Ramaswamy, former chief business officer for Axovant Gene Therapies; Fraser Wright, co-founder of Sparks Therapeutics; and Roger Jeffs, the former United Therapeutics CEO who has deep roots in North Carolina.

Its aim is to develop gene therapies for highly serious diseases. Among them: type 1 and type 2 diabetes, severe obesity and other indications affecting millions of patients.

This July, it landed a whopping $100 million in capital. That was on top of $80.5 million raised last year.

Existing institutional investors also participated in the most recent round, including QVT, Dexcel Pharma, Foresite Capital, Bluebird Ventures, Transhuman Capital, Narya Capital, Amplo and JDRF T1D Fund. New investors included Woodline Partners LP, CAM Capital, Hongkou, Alumni Ventures and others.

(C) N.C. Biotech Center