Project 8: Development of Nanomaterials for Ocular Drug Delivery

Diseases of the posterior segment of the eye are increasing considerably, in part due to an ageing population. One such disease, Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most common cause of blindness in patients over sixty, accounts for almost 10% of blindness worldwide. Its predicted global incidence for 2020 is 196M, rising to 288M in 2040. Typical treatment involves regular injections into the eye, which is associated with significant patient discomfort and potentially serious side effects, including bleeding, infection and retinal detachment. As such, there is an unmet clinical need for the development of new and improved drug delivery techniques to treat this and similar diseases of the posterior segment of the eye.

This project aims to address this challenge through the development of novel drug-loaded nanomaterials designed for targeted and controlled release of therapeutics for AMD and other posterior segment disease treatment. Novel delivery platforms such as these could greatly improve patient comfort and outcomes by negating or reducing the need for ocular injections. Research and experimental work will involve the synthesis, characterization and evaluation of novel nano-enhanced delivery systems, capable of attenuating the release profile as dictated by the clinical need. The project is transdisciplinary in nature, incorporating chemical, biomedical, polymeric, industrial and clinical expertise, as well as being highly relevant to patients and industry.

This project will include three international secondments, to a total of 9 months over the project lifetime. The secondments are to the University of Iceland (Iceland), Colorado School of Mines (USA) and an industrial secondment to Experimentica (Finland).

The main phases of the research can be summarised as follows: 

  • Formulation and characterisation of drug-encapsulating/drug-complexing nanomaterials designed to act as a drug depot for posterior segment ocular drug delivery. Here, innovative nanomaterials will be formulated to encapsulate/complex the specific model drug compounds.
  • In vitro and ex vivo characterisation of the resultant formulations will be investigated and biological evaluation of these nanomaterials will be carried out on ocular cell lines and cytotoxicity evaluation will be fully determined
  • In vivo  studies will be carried out where appropriate and necessary and the suitability of these materials for future development will be determined
  • Incorporation of nanoparticles into drug delivery systems (e.g. contact lens materials)

The successful nanomaterial will be incorporated into the most suitable delivery system composition and after subsequent confirmation of retention of optical properties, drug release will be determined.

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