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$17M Grant to Support Research Linking Eye Health, Alzheimer’s

‘The eyes provide a lens to understand the health of the brain,’ says one researcher.

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(Press Release) In pursuit of changing the course of Alzheimer’s, support is growing to explore new avenues that might unlock mysteries of this brain disease. This includes investigating the link between aging eyes and aging brains.

Cecilia Lee, an assistant professor of ophthalmology at the University of Washington School of Medicine, recently received a $17.2 million grant from the National Institute on Aging to research eye diseases’ associations with Alzheimer’s.

“The eyes provide a lens to understand the health of the brain,” she said.

Lee was lead author of a 2018 study that found a significant link between Alzheimer’s disease and three degenerative eye diseases: age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma.

Alzheimer’s is complicated and expensive to diagnose. Lee hopes to identify novel eye-related biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease that could lead to much easier and cheaper diagnostics to pinpoint people at risk of developing dementia due to Alzheimer’s, and perhaps expedite future treatments.

The research team comprises a large group of UW and Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute investigators with world-renowned expertise in dementia, neuropsychology, neuroimaging, ophthalmic imaging, big data, and artificial intelligence. They include Eric B. Larson, senior investigator and former vice president for research and healthcare innovation at Kaiser, and, from the UW: Paul Crane, professor of medicine, C. Dirk Keene, associate professor of pathology, Ruikang Wang, professor of bioengineering, and Aaron Lee, assistant professor of ophthalmology.

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In 1994, while at the University of Washington, Larson started the Adult Changes in Thought (ACT) study, a prospective repository of health information of Kaiser Permanente Washington patients age 65 and over; it provides data for many studies, including this one. The ACT database also includes a rare autopsy cohort so researchers can see what happened to the brains of consenting participants after they die. The team will partner with the Laboratory on Neuro Imaging at the University of Southern California to make the ophthalmic imaging data from this project available to researchers around the world.

“This project will develop unique community-based and home-based data about the health of eyes in older adults, which has never been studied to this extent before,” said Crane. “It will be the largest such collection of data from any project anywhere, which is very exciting.”

Keene said the study is important because linking disease processes in the eye and the brain provides a window not only for diagnosis but also to understand mechanisms of Alzheimer’s disease development and progression.

“This will hopefully result in early intervention and prevention of neurodegeneration,” he said.

Lee said the grant is an endorsement of the ACT team’s work and of the National Institute on Aging’s investment in Alzheimer’s research involving the eye. As Larson said, the ACT team has had longstanding interest in the relationship of sensory functions with Alzheimer’s, but now they have much more sophistication and promise to understand it.

Credit: UW Medicine

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Smart Glasses ‘Breakthrough’ Likely Not Far Off, Zuckerberg Says

New products ‘will redefine our relationship with technology.’

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says major developments in augmented reality are probable in the coming decade, CNBC reports.

He offered his thoughts in a Facebook post last week, writing, “The technology platform of the 2010s was the mobile phone. While I expect phones to still be our primary devices through most of this decade, at some point in the 2020s, we will get breakthrough augmented reality glasses that will redefine our relationship with technology.”

CNBC decribes augmented reality as “technology that lets users place digital objects on top of the real world.”

Zuckerberg acknowledged that some augmented-reality products to this point have felt “clunky.” But he said new products “will be the most human and social technology platforms anyone has built yet.”

He said augmented reality could improve many areas of life, including careers: “Imagine if you could live anywhere you chose and access any job anywhere else. If we deliver on what we’re building, this should be much closer to reality by 2030.”

In September, Facebook was reported to be working with Luxottica to develop a pair of smart glasses. The project was reportedly code-named Orion.

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The glasses would be intended to disrupt the smartphone market. Zacks reported at the time that the idea was to “allow users of the smart glasses to take calls, livestream on social media and many other such features that are intended to replace smartphones.”

With the smart glasses project, Facebook was apparently “raising its efforts to withstand the intense competition in the next-generation glasses space from Snap, Google, Microsoft and Apple,” Zacks said at the time.

Read more at the CNBC

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$60M to Support Potential Treatment for Eyelash Mite Outbreaks

It could be the ‘first-ever drug treatment for this condition.’

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IRVINE, CA — Tarsus Pharmaceuticals has announced the completion of $60 million in Series B financing.

The clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company will use the funds to start a Phase 2b/3 trial in the U.S. of its lead product, a drug candidate for treatment of Demodex blepharitis.

An estimated 20 million Americans suffer from blepharitis, and approximately 45 percent of them have clinical signs of Demodex mites, the company explains in a press release. Tarsus is developing a topical ophthalmic that “targets an underlying cause of blepharitis and has the potential to be the first-ever drug treatment for this condition,” according to the release.

The funding will also fuel Phase 1 and 2 development of other clinical programs. The company’s product pipeline includes additional indications in eyecare and other areas of high unmet clinical need, according to the release.

“We’re excited to support this innovative company that is developing the first drug for Demodex blepharitis and building a pipeline of products to address other large market opportunities,” said Dr. Chen Yu, managing partner at Vivo Capital.

Michael Ackermann, Tarsus chairman, said, “We founded Tarsus with the mission of bringing to market the first drug for Demodex blepharitis, an important unmet need and one of the largest diseases in anterior segment medicine.”

Dr. Bobby Azamian, Tarsus CEO, added, “We are grateful for support from a leading syndicate of healthcare investors. This financing will allow Tarsus to grow, conduct a first registration study in Demodex blepharitis, and broaden our mission to deliver innovative therapies in eye care and beyond by advancing our clinical pipeline in 2020.”

The financing was led by Vivo Capital and included Frazier Healthcare Partners, Flying L Partners, Visionary Ventures, Aperture Venture Partners and Horowitz Group.

 

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California’s Medi-Cal Puts Eyeglasses Back on List of Covered Services

They were cut several years ago.

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California’s Medicaid program, Medi-Cal, has restored eyeglasses to its list of covered services.

Eyeglasses were cut several years ago as California adjusted to the recession, leaving adults on the program to pay for them out of pocket, Central Coast Public Radio reports.

Capital Public Radio notes that vision exams and other eye health services have continued to be covered.

“We want everyone to see, and we think everyone deserves to see,” Dr. David Ardaya of the California Optometric Association said, acccording to Central Coast Public Radio.

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Contact lenses still will not be covered.

Medi-Cal is also restoring coverage for certain other services, such as podiatry and speech therapy.

Read more at the Central Coast Public Radio

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