Colin Francou has been Head of Business Development at Laboratoires Théa since 2014. As a member of Axerovision's Management Committee, Colin is also the Managing Director of Sincler, a spin-off company of Laboratoires Théa.
When was the sister company of laboratoires Théa , Théa Open Innovation (TOI), created?
We completed the drafting of the articles of association at the very end of 2018. But formally, the company was launched in early 2019.
Who is on your team?
Today, we are a dozen people and we are expecting two more imminently, who are in the process of being recruited. They are specialists in scientific and medical evaluation, business development and alliance management.
Can you tell us about TOI’s first steps?
Our mission is to bring new innovative projects to Théa's R&D pipeline, drawing on external expertise (biotechs, start-ups, ophthalmologists, universities, etc.). The harvest was good because in two years, we have been able to sign several important partnerships in new therapeutic areas. So with the Sincler spin-off, we are working on the major problem of the storage and preservation of corneal grafts. The company in St. Etienne is developing a technological platform that makes it possible – during storage, and before transplantation – to maintain the graft under conditions similar to the physiological conditions in humans. This could save 75% of the corneas rejected today because of deterioration and, more precisely, loss of endothelial cells essential for the success of a transplant. With another partner, Biocorp, we are trying to develop solutions to help patients with blinding diseases such as glaucoma. This project concerns a smart medical device that will help improve patient compliance. But for Théa, the European leader in conventional therapeutic classes, the ambition today is to showcase its expertise, enthusiasm and means to propose new solutions for retinal diseases; an area where there is still a long way to go despite the considerable progress made in recent years. Théa has partnered with research companies that offer novel and promising pathways such as the Korean firm OliX, which is working on innovative treatments for dry and wet AMD based on ribonucleic acid interference (RNAi) technologies; or the Canadian company Ripple Therapeutics, with whom we hope to be able to offer a sustained release implant based on its "flagship" product, IBE-814IVT, and which targets diabetic macular oedema and retinal vein occlusion. The first trial in humans has begun. Advances and new treatments in this area of the retina are essential because in the years to come, given the increase in life expectancy, the incidence of these diseases will continue to increase. Finally, Théa has decided to tackle a disease that is beginning to pose a global public health problem, especially among young people: myopia. In Europe, young people in their twenties are twice as likely to be short-sighted as 50-year-olds. And the phenomenon has been accelerating for the past 10 years. Researchers are concerned about an epidemic linked in particular to the use of new technologies, and more generally to environmental conditions. After years of research in this area, we decided to partner with the US-based company Nevakar in New Jersey, which is developing an atropine-containing treatment that prevents the progression of myopia in children.