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Santen and jCyte conclude an exclusive licensing agreement for jCell, a cell therapy for retinitis pigmentosa

Wed 13 May 2020

Santen and jCyte, a clinical stage biotech company focused on degenerative retinal diseases, have announced the conclusion of an exclusive licensing agreement covering the development, registration and commercialisation rights of jCell in Europe and Asia. jCell is a first-in-class investigational cell therapy, currently in clinical development for retinitis pigmentosa. 

“If marketing authorisation is granted, jCell represents a significant breakthrough in retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative disease for which there are currently no approved therapies,” said Luis Iglesias, President and Head of Santen EMEA. “As a specialised company with 130 years of heritage in ophthalmology, we are delighted to be partnering with jCyte to pioneer a new era for people who currently have no other option and risk losing their sight due to this inherited disease.”

jCell is a developmental cell therapy product that is administered through intravitreal injection, a minimally invasive procedure when compared with direct retinal injection, which is used in many other genetic and cell therapies. The principal components of jCell are retinal progenitor cells, which release growth and protection factors to activate and preserve retinal cells. This mechanism of action is understood to have the potential for application in all types of retinitis pigmentosa. 

Based on early clinical data, jCell has already received orphan drug designation from the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Plans are also in place to investigate the potential further applications of jCell to other degenerative diseases affecting retinal cells.

Retinitis pigmentosa is a group of rare, genetic disorders that involve a breakdown and loss of cells in the retina, leading to loss of peripheral vision and blindness. It often occurs early in life, in the teenage years, with many people unfortunately rendered blind by middle age. Worldwide, approximately 1.9 million people suffer from the disease, with 3.7 in every 10,000 people in Europe affected.1,2 At present there are no effective treatments for retinitis pigmentosa; instead patients rely on visual aids such as magnifiers, which due to the progressive nature of the disease, eventually become ineffective.2 

Santen’s 130 year heritage in ophthalmology means that we have the expertise and resources to explore rare diseases and under-resourced areas in ophthalmology. We are passionate about improving eye health and protecting vision, and continue to work tirelessly to address the needs of the community we serve, whether that involves simple product adaptations, provision and deployment of services or pioneering scientific discoveries. 


1.    Hamel C. Retinitis pigmentosa. Orphanet J Rare Dis. 2006;1:40. 
2.    European Medicines Agency (EMA). Retinitis pigmentosa. Available here: Last accessed May 2020

Document no: NP-No product-EMEA-0036
Date of preparation: May 2020