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Researchers Developing Contact Lens to Fight Dry Eye Syndrome

The CyteSolutions Lens team hopes to take the prototype to clinical trials.

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The CyteSolutions Lens, developed by Pitt engineering graduate student researcher Alexis Nolfi along with researchers Vishal Jhanji of the School of Medicine and Mangesh Kulkarni and Bryan Brown being tested in the lab. (Tom Altany/University of Pittsburgh)

Researchers in Pennsylvania are developing a contacts lens intended to combat dry eye syndrome.

The CyteSolutions Lens is a silicone-hydrogel-based contact lens coated with natural biopolymers — organic molecular structures — containing a drug that targets inflammatory dry eye pathways “not targeted by any other current treatments,” according to a press item from the University of Pittsburgh.

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“The coating is only activated and degraded whenever it makes contact with the surface of your eye, because there are enzymes in your eyes that work to degrade the polymers we use,” said Alexis Nolfi, a graduate bioengineering student researcher in the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering. “This allows the slow and safe release of drugs over a period of hours or even days as opposed to drops that almost immediately fall out of or drain away from your eyes.”

Nolfi has been dealing with dry eye for several years, and the eye drop treatments she had been taking were only working temporarily, so she was using eye drops multiple times a day.

“It’s been pretty frustrating and borderline debilitating,” said Nolfi. “I had been using artificial tears every night and all through the day. I still use them all the time and haven’t been getting adequate relief, and I fight with my insurance company to cover prescription eye drop treatments.”

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When she went to visit her eye doctor, Vishal Jhanji, in 2018, the two began discussing the need for better treatment options for dry eye syndrome.

“Dry eye is the most common reason patients come into our office,” said Jhanji, a professor of ophthalmology in Pitt’s School of Medicine. “She (Nolfi) had been using eye drops 10 to 15 times a day.”

Nolfi decided to experiment with contact lenses given to her by Jhanji to develop a new therapy tool and drug delivery system.

“There is a definite need for innovation and ways to deliver drugs to the surface of the eye,” Jhanji said. “We’re not looking to simply replenish the eye; we’re trying to tackle the root cause of this problem.”

Nolfi and Jhanji, along with Swanson School researchers Mangesh Kulkarni and Bryan Brown, recently won one of three $100,000 grand prizes at the 2019 Pitt Innovation Challenge, hosted by Pitt’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute, to further advance their innovation.

The CyteSolutions Lens team hopes to take its prototype to clinical trials and will ramp up studies thanks to the competition’s funding. The researchers said anyone who uses contact lenses would be a good candidate to try CyteSolutions Lens.

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“We don’t expect this lens to feel any different from standard soft contact lenses, and they’re natural with no chemical crosslinking,” said Jhanji.

Pitt’s Innovation Institute, the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine and the UPMC Eye Center assisted with research on the CyteSolutions Lens.

Credit: Pittwire

Since launching in 2014, INVISION has won 23 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INVISION's editors at editor@invisionmag.com.

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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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