Wonkyu “Daniel” Ju, PhD, Professor in the Viterbi Family Department of Ophthalmology, and the Shiley Eye Institute (SEI), was awarded $1,530,352 in UG3 grant funding by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support the development of novel gene therapy to reduce retinal neuroinflammation and provide effective neuroprotection to glaucoma patients.
Glaucoma remains a leading cause of global blindness by damaging the nerve in the back of the eye called the optic nerve. The symptoms start gradually so that they may not even be noticed. There is no cure for glaucoma, but early treatment can often stop the damage and protect sight. Therapies include eye drops, laser treatment or surgery.
Emerging evidence suggests that glia-neuroinflammation is a critical element that leads to retinal ganglion cell (optic nerve cell) death and optic nerve degeneration in the development of glaucoma. According to Ju, “These studies will develop a novel gene therapy to reduce retinal neuroinflammation and mitochondrial dysfunction as well as provide effective neuroprotection to glaucoma patients.”
If successful, IND-enabling studies will be conducted at UC San Diego in order to obtain FDA approval for the first-in-human trial. Co-Investigator Robert N. Weinreb, MD, Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology, notes that “Our department receiving this prestigious grant marks a groundbreaking moment as it’s the first time a glaucoma genetic therapeutic approach, spanning preclinical and clinical trials, has been awarded NIH funding.”
The project is a collaborative endeavor that draws upon the collective strengths and resources of UC San Diego, RAFT Pharmaceuticals, and the NIH Blueprint Neurotherapeutics Network – Biologic.
The only way to find out if you have glaucoma is to get a comprehensive dilated eye exam by an eyecare professional. To make an appointment with an SEI glaucoma specialist, please call 858-534-6290.
For information at SEI, please contact Karen Anisko Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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