Project 3: Intrascleral Implants for Posterior Segment Drug Delivery
Chronic retinal diseases are the leading contributor to visual impairment and blindness that are potentially the most devastating health problem worldwide. The World Health Organization estimates that globally about 285M people are visually impaired, of which 39M are blind and 246M have low vision.
Diseases that originate in the posterior segment (PS) or back of the eye lead to permanent loss of vision if left untreated and account for the majority of blindness, such as in age- related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic retinopathy (DR), diabetic macular edema (DME). Current treatment of AMD involves the direct intravitreal injection of aqueous formulations of anti-vascular endothelial growth factors known as anti-VEGF (e.g. Lucentis®, Eyelea® & Avastin®) in the eye. However, this is not a desirable method of drug delivery for several reasons: the need for frequent injections (every 4-8 weeks), significant tissue trauma, short half-lives of injected biologics, uncomfortable and painful to patients, requires professional training, causes rise in intraocular pressure (IOP), severe injection-related infections (e.g. endophthalmitis, hemorrhage, and cataract), mechanical injury to the lens and retina, and higher costs. This project aims to address this challenge by developing localised and sustained release intrasscleral implants for improved drug delivery to the PS of the eye. We will be fabricating micron-sized biodegradable and long-acting implants for localised delivery of drug molecules within the scleral tissue. This project focuses on the design, fabrication, physicochemical/mechanical characterisation, and in vitro/ex vivo/in vivo evaluation of the implants for the PS drug delivery applications. The student will be working on this multidisciplinary and collaborative project (with QUB, IST, & UoI), with a wide-ranging expertise in area of formulation, bioprinting, chemical, biomedical, analytical, industrial and preclinical expertise.
The main objectives of the research can be summarised as follows:
- To select and characterise candidate materials for implant fabrication
- To develop and validate analytical/bioanalytical techniques for quantification of drug molecules
- To investigate biodegradation, biocompatibility and bioactivity of drug-loaded implants in in vitro and ex vivo
- To test safety and efficacy in in vivo models