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News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

UNSW and Janssen collaborate in revolutionary ophthalmology trial

Health Industry Hub | February 5, 2021 |

Pharma News: Research conducted by UNSW Sydney has paved the way for clinical testing of an ocular treatment for Diabetic Macular Oedema and wet Age-related Macular Degeneration.

A clinical trial has commenced across Australia for a novel eye drop treatment that could improve the treatment of patients with retinal vascular diseases. If successful, the eye drops will revolutionise treatment for these diseases, which currently involves serial injections of an antibody into the back of the eye.

“The new eye drop treatment is an excellent example of UNSW researchers being able to translate their research into the clinic,” Prof. Morris said. 

“I’m thrilled to be involved in a collaborative project that could result in a game-changing therapy for retinal vascular diseases. Eye drops offer patients a more effective and accessible treatment that can be self-administered in a painless and convenient way,” he added.

“Our goal at Janssen is to improve and preserve vision for the millions of patients around the world with retinal diseases, and we’re thrilled to have initiated our Phase 1b/2 trial with Exonate and UNSW. Diabetic macular oedema is the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetes. Current treatments for DMO are invasive, costly and inconvenient – making an eye drop a very appealing alternative for this population,” said Pete Adamson, Vice President, Disease Area Stronghold Head, Ophthalmology, Janssen.

Scientia Professor Fiona Stapleton at UNSW’s School of Optometry and Vision Sciences said “This project reinforces UNSW School of Optometry and Vision Science’s expertise in clinical trials for ocular pharmaceuticals. We are excited to be able to participate in the clinical testing of this novel and much needed treatment for retinal disease.”

Retinal vascular diseases, including macular degeneration and diabetic macular oedema, are the main cause of loss of sight in developed countries.

UNSW researchers identified novel compounds that modulate the growth factor causing retinal vascular diseases. As they are absorbed in the eye, the compounds allow retinal vascular disease treatment to be given via eye drop rather than injections directly into the eye.

Professor Nicholas Fisk, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise) at UNSW, including responsibility for knowledge exchange, is pleased that UNSW research with the potential to improve healthcare worldwide has attracted international investment from venture capital, including UniSeed, as well as Big Pharma.

“This is an exemplar of UNSW initiated technology being pivotally commercialised with international partners to deliver healthcare benefits and societal impact,” Prof. Fisk said. 

Dr Catherine Beech, Chief Executive Officer of Exonate, said “The initiation of our first clinical trial is an important step in the validation of our eye drop approach. This is a unique opportunity to create a drug that may have the potential to improve the treatment of patients with retinal vascular diseases and transform the lives of those suffering from vision loss.”

Based on initial work carried out at the UNSW School of Chemistry, Professor Jonathan Morris collaborated with Exonate to design the molecule used in the trial.

Exonate is collaborating on the trial with Janssen Pharmaceuticals. Results from the trial are expected in early 2022.


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