Hockings hopes for blindness drug

13/05/2022 - 09:48

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40under40: The journey from an idea to an approved medication is as difficult as putting a person on the moon, Rohan Hockings says.

Hockings hopes for blindness drug
Rohan Hockings leads PYC Therapeutics. Photo: David Henry

Rohan Hockings says an eye disease drug under development by his company has the potential to deliver a $1-billion-a-year market.

However, the chief executive of PYC Therapeutics told Business News it was a long journey to get medication from the idea stage to be patient ready.

“It’s like putting man on the moon,” Mr Hockings said.

“It’s very, very difficult getting a therapy from an idea into a patient, let alone an approved therapy for a patient.”

For those suffering from the retinitis pigmentosa eye disease, it will be the first therapeutic available if the precision drug can get across the line.

It is the most common form of inherited retinal disease, with about one in every 3,000 to 4,000 people affected globally and a typical prognosis of blindness before 50 years of age.

Mr Hockings was a First Amongst Equals finalist and medium-sized business category winner for this year’s 40under40 Awards for his work leading PYC in developing precision medications for retinitis pigmentosa and other eye diseases.

The past few years have been a period of major growth for the company.

PYC has expanded from 25 staff in Perth two years ago to now have more than 70, while opening a US office with seven staff.

The ASX-listed business has a market capitalisation of $280 million at the time of writing, after a rollercoaster period of rising biotech stocks during the pandemic and a decline as inflation spiked.

That’s up from $58 million when Mr Hockings took on the role as chief executive in April 2018.

PYC is developing precision medicine for two eye diseases, a neurodevelopmental disease, and a kidney disease.

The retinitis pigmentosa therapeutic is the most advanced and the company hopes to apply for human trials in November.

PYC plans to undertake those trials with the Lions Eye Institute, which owns a 10 per cent slice of PYC’s Vision Pharma, the entity developing the therapeutic.

It can take up to 15 years to develop a medication from the idea stage to be patient approved.

In this case PYC has achieved a rare feat, with a locally owned company developing and trialling its product in Perth.

Mr Hockings said there was a lot of uncertainty in biotech, and the company was just getting to the starting line now.

“And from there we’re judged on whether we have an impact on somebody’s life,” he said.

“It’s a hard slog.

“The macro trend in the industry is very poor.

“At the start of last year things were going great guns … there was a huge influx of investors in the space.”

But that had since cooled substantially, Mr Hockings said.

“We’re just checking milestones as we progress,” he said.

“If we can get an efficacy signal in the clinical trials, then the market is greater than $1 billion.

“Each of the subsequent drugs target a larger market than that.”

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