Building on the history of international excellence established with the 20/20 NSERC Ophthalmic Materials Network, (20/20 Network) the 20/20 Commercialization Centre (C20/20) will optimize and validate the next generation of biomaterials for treating conditions of the eye.
Vision loss affects an estimated 500,000 Canadians, with more than 185,000 of which live in Ontario. An additional 5.5 million Canadians suffer from a vision disorder that has the potential to lead to sight loss, and more than 50,000 of these patients will lose their sight annually. These numbers are growing as the population ages. To put vision loss into perspective, this is greater than the number of Canadians suffering from breast cancer, prostate cancer, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease combined. A 2008 CNIB study concluded that Canada is approaching what they termed a crisis in vision health. The direct cost of treatment for these patients in Canada has been estimated at $16 billion.
Implementation of Biomaterials
Biomaterials have been central to ophthalmics since World War II, when doctors noticed that splinters of acrylic from aircraft canopies which became lodged in the eye did not trigger an immune response. This observation led to the implementation of plastics in the eye, leading to innovations such as intraocular and contact lenses. Thus, ophthalmic biomaterials remain one of the most successful classes, with an enormous range of clinical applicability and established precedent. However, significant needs remain. For example, while intraocular lenses restore vision to millions of cataract patients on an annual basis, an unacceptable complication rate as high as 30% has been observed meaning that secondary treatment is required in a large percentage of cases. Contact lenses, among the most widely used biomaterials, suffer a drop out rate due to lack of comfort and other complications.
The ORF-RE funding will support the creation of an internationally unique commercialization centre for the development and preclinical testing of the next generation of smart ophthalmic materials and drug delivery devices. These novel systems will include lens materials which minimize complications by responding to the wound healing environment in the lens capsule, drug delivery devices which respond to changes in the biology of the eye or other physiological changes, including temperature and pH, as well as materials which interact with the ocular biology to tailor delivery rates or degradation.
It is our goal to be at the leading edge in new ophthalmic materials development to treat Ontario patients suffering from vision disorders. To accomplish this, we have assembled an exceptional team of industry partners and a unique group of researchers with expertise spanning materials science, ocular biology and clinical ophthalmology and optometry. It is our vision that this commercialization centre will fill the gap that exists between the lab and the patient by performing critical preclinical and early clinical work that will allow company partners to creating effective responsive materials-based treatments for ocular disease.
Specifically, we will:
- Develop the next generation of comfortable contact lens
- Develop the next generation of biologically active intraocular lens materials.
- Develop anterior segment drug delivery devices based on the interaction with the mucin layer will enhance precorneal residence time, thereby minimizing the need for frequent drop instillation.
- Develop responsive posterior segment drug delivery devices which can be injected into the back of the eye and which can deliver drugs for a period of at least 4 months, minimizing the need for frequent injections.