$10 million grant will fund CWRU retinal disease research

January 12, 2011

The National Eye Institute has awarded $10.1 million to the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine to research and develop new treatments for retinal diseases.

Cleveland-The National Eye Institute (NEI) has awarded $10.1 million to the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine to research and develop new treatments for retinal diseases.

The grant will be given over 5 years to the pharmacology, ophthalmology and visual sciences, and biomedical engineering departments at the medical school. Researchers there are collaborating with the Retinal Therapeutics Study Group, which also includes researchers from the Cincinnati Drug Discovery Center, the University of Pennsylvania, and Washington University in St. Louis.

The group will screen FDA-approved drugs for their potential application in research models engineered to mimic such conditions as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), Stargardt’s disease, and retinitis pigmentosa. The drug-screening process is designed to accelerate the process of drug development before clinical testing in humans.

“Current treatments for AMD focus on management of the late stages of the disease. These studies could result in treatments at the earlier stages and save more vision as a result,” said Jonathan H. Lass, MD, professor and chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the university and director of the University Hospitals Case Medical Center Eye Institute.

Another priority for the NEI-funded research is evaluating existing FDA-approved drugs as potential lead compounds for retinal diseases, because these drugs already have been proven safe and effective in basic research and clinical studies for other indications. Researchers likewise will assess the ability of potential compounds to penetrate and remain in the eye without negatively affecting vision, and they will explore and try to develop new drug-delivery systems to achieve and maintain therapeutic-level drug concentrations in the eye.