Investigators receive $10.15 million grant to develop antibody-based dry eye treatment

With funding from the National Eye Institute, the team of researchers will focus on developing a broad-spectrum immunomodulatory eye drop for patients dealing with dry eye and ocular surface disease stemming from inflammatory and immune system disorders.

Investigators at the University of Chicago have received a 5-year, $10.15 million grant to develop a broad-spectrum immunomodulatory eye drop for patients dealing with dry eye and ocular surface disease stemming from inflammatory and immune system disorders.

Sandeep Jain, MD, was awarded the grant from the National Eye Institute. The principal investigator, he is a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Chicago’s College of Medicine, is principal investigator. The grant is funded through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health National Eye Institute.

According to Jain, more than 14% of the population in the US older than 50 experience dry eye, which can be caused by medical conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, thyroid disease, and sarcoidosis. Aging is also a common cause.

Investigators noted that drugs currently approved to treat dry eye conditions affect the T-cell function and do not have any actions against pathogenic autoantibodies.

With the grant funding, investigators plan to develop an antibody-based eye drop that contains pooled human immune globulins as an active ingredient, which have broad-spectrum immunomodulatory actions through anti-idiotypic, molecular and cellular mechanisms.

The investigators noted that the new eye drops may prove to be particularly helpful in patients who have dry eyes due to immune disorders.

The new grant also will fund production of preclinical data that supports a commercial application to the US Federal Drug Administration to enable testing the pooled human immune globulin eye drops in phased clinical trials.

Jain noted that the burden of dry eye is greater than just having an occasional feeling of dryness.

“Our hope is that we can improve the quality of life of patients who suffer greatly because of dry eyes due to inflammatory and immune system disorders because of lack of availability of effective therapies,” Jain said in a statement.

Jain noted that the disease can impact a patient’s quality of live and compromise their vision. With few approved drugs to treat dry eye that do not work for everyone. He noted that having new treatment options is important.

Jain’s research experience includes key discoveries in dry eye conditions, such as the presence of Neutrophil Extracellular Traps on the ocular surface of patients with dry eye disease and anti-citrullinated proteins and autoantibodies in the tears. His lab was the first to discover that neutrophils, a type of white blood cells, gather on the surface of the eyes of people with dry eye disease, especially in those unable to produce enough tears.

Jain’s investigative research team includes Matthew Lindeblad, Yi-Fan Chen, PhD, Nadera Sweiss, MD, and Damiano Rondelli, MD, all of the University of Chicago; Polireddy Dondeti, of Saptalis Pharmaceuticals Inc.; Simon Kaja, PhD, of Loyola University in Chicago; and Mariana Kaplan, MD, of the NIH/National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.