SparingVision Named One of 2023’s Fierce 15

August 31, 2023

SparingVision, a genomic medicine company founded by José-Alain Sahel, MD, and the late Thierry Lèveillard, PhD, was recently named one of Fierce Biotech’s Fierce 15 for 2023. The Fierce 15 recognizes biotechnology companies around the world on the cutting edge of scientific discovery and innovation; to make the list, a company must demonstrate that it is pushing the envelope not only in the lab, in the clinic, or on the conference circuit, but also defining what it means to be a modern biotech company.

Dr. Sahel, chairman of ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and director of the UPMC Vision Institute, and Dr. Lèveillard, a noted French researcher, founded SparingVision in 2016 to develop genetic therapies for retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a group of inherited retinal diseases that affects more than two million people worldwide. UPMC Enterprises is one of SparingVision’s key investors, supporting the company’s innovative work.


Drs. Sahel and Lèveillard discovered rod-delivered cone-viability factor, or RdCVF, a protein secreted by rod photoreceptors that is essential to the health and survival of cone photoreceptors. In RP, genetic mutations cause rods to die and lead to peripheral vision loss. In the absence of rods and the RdCVF the provide, the cones die as well, causing central vision loss and blindness.


Scientists at SparingVision have developed, in contrast to many others targeting single gene defects, gene therapies that are mutation-independent, making them applicable to a broader patient population. SPVN06 delivers RdCVF back into the retina via a safe viral vector, protecting the cones and preserving central vision. SPVN20 provides a channel protein to restore electrical activity in dormant cones, restoring visual acuity and color perception.

SparingVision is currently exploring a combination of SPVN06 and SPVN20 and collaborating with Intellia Therapeutics on genome editing using CRISPR/Cas9 technology.