Corneal damage is the fourth most common cause of blindness in the world after glaucoma, cataracts, and age-related macular degeneration. Up to 18 percent of all emergency room traumas are eye injuries, including occupational and facial burns and related corneal abrasions, inflammation, infections, and ulcers. Eye injury related to blast, burn, and chemical trauma has also increased significantly due to recent wars. Moran's Barbara Wirostko, MD, found that for many ophthalmic healthcare practitioners, managing patients with corneal wounds can be difficult. "Right now, there are limited approved products, and some patients must apply topical ocular antibiotics every hour, which can be a struggle," she says. In addition to the logistical difficulty of applying antibiotics every hour, there are significant risks. "If not administered properly, there is the possibility for ulcers, infection, scarring, pain, and corneal blindness."
Wirostko realized that a polymer CMHA-S hydrogel invented by Dr. Glenn Prestwich at the University of Utah and modified by Dr. Brenda Mann of SentrX Animal Care, can be used as a sustained-release multi-purpose drug delivery system for ocular infections, ulcers, inflammation, scarring, dry eye, and post-surgery recovery. "The polymer could possibly be used as a film to deliver ophthalmic antibiotics, or other drugs, when placed under the lower lid of a patient's eye or under a bandage contact lens," says Wirostko. In 2010, she co-founded Jade Therapeutics Inc., to continue developing the polymer.
This CMHA-S polymer, in gel form, has been used for several years in the veterinary medicine markets to promote the healing of corneal wounds in animals. One version of the polymer is manufactured by SentrX and sold globally as Remend by Bayer Animal Health. Dr. Wirostko realized that these products could be an important addition to the treatment of ophthalmic trauma in humans; she and her colleagues at Jade are working to facilitate this. Jade has been awarded Small Business Innovation Research grants from the National Science Foundation and the US Department of Defense to develop both the drug releasing films and topical corneal treatment in humans.
Barbara M. Wirostko, MD, is adjunct associate professor of ophthalmology and co-founder and chief scientific officer of Jade Therapeutics Inc., now a wholly owned subsidiary of EyeGate Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:EYEG). Dr. Wirostko has taken on the role of Chief Medical Officer of EyeGate, and the lab will remain in Salt Lake City.