More than two decades ago, the Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB) began funding RPE65 gene therapy research that led in late 2017 to LUXTURNA™, the first FDA-approved gene therapy for the eye or an inherited condition. Ultimately, the Foundation provided more than $10 million in funding for the groundbreaking effort. Continue Reading…
Hosted by the Foundation Fighting Blindness and Casey Eye Institute at Oregon Health & Science University, the Innovation Summit for Retinal Cell and Gene Therapy has emerged as one of the most essential events for researchers and companies developing treatments and cures for retinal degenerative diseases.
Horama, a French biotech developing gene therapies for rare eye diseases, was established in 2014 as a spin-off of INSERM, France’s public scientific and technology institute. Today, the company has three gene-therapy development programs underway for rare inherited retinal diseases, targeting people with mutations in the genes PDE6B, RPE65, and RLBP1. Continue Reading…
At the annual ARVO research conference in Honolulu, I had an opportunity to talk with FFB-funded researcher Shannon Boye, PhD, University of Florida, about her advancement of gene therapy for Leber congenital amaurosis (GUCY2D mutations) toward a clinical trial.
Nightstar Therapeutics, a retinal-disease, gene-therapy development company in the UK, is advancing its emerging gene therapy for choroideremia into a Phase 3 clinical trial known as STAR. The study will enroll approximately 140 patients at 18 clinical sites in the US, Europe, Canada, and South America. Continue Reading…
Spark Therapeutics’ vision-restoring RPE65 gene therapy has received marketing approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, becoming the first gene therapy to gain regulatory approval in the U.S. for the eye or any inherited condition.
Known as LUXTURNA™ (voretigene neparvovec), the gene therapy restored vision in a clinical trial for people between the ages of 4 and 44 with Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) caused by mutations in the gene RPE65. Study participants with severe vision loss reported putting away their navigational canes, seeing stars, being able to read, and recognizing faces of loved ones. Vision restoration has persisted for at least three years. The treatment is also designed to work for people with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) caused by RPE65 mutations. Continue Reading…
A 29-year-old British man is the first person to be treated in a gene therapy clinical trial for X-linked retinitis pigmentosa (XLRP). Robert MacLaren, MD, the lead investigator for the trial taking place at the Oxford Eye Hospital in the United Kingdom, says the patient is doing well and has gone home. The trial is being run by Nightstar, a biopharmaceutical company in the U.K. developing therapies for inherited retinal diseases. As many as 24 patients will be enrolled in the 12-month trial.
No, people with inherited retinal diseases don’t have to adopt new names or personas, or go into witness protection programs, to save their vision. But by changing the identity of cells in the retina — namely rods — researchers may someday be able to slow or halt vision loss for those with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and other related conditions.
While the innovative therapeutic approach is not ready to be tested in humans, a research team led by Tom Reh, PhD, University of Washington, and Sheng Ding, PhD, University of California, San Francisco, accomplished the feat in mice with RP. The investigators treated rods in the mice with a compound known as photoregulin1 (PR1) that blocked a gene involved in rod development called Nr2e3. That, in turn, reduced the expression (activity) of other rod-associated genes, making the rods less rod-like and more like cones. Doing so stopped retinal degeneration, preserving both rods and cones. Rods and cones are important, because they’re the cells that make vision possible. Results of the PR1 study were published online in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science.
William Beltran, Artur Cideciyan, Gustavo Aguirre and Samuel Jacobson. Photo by John Donges/Penn Vet
When scientists embark on developing a treatment for an inherited retinal disease, one of their first tasks is to identify or create a model of the condition. Disease models can be cells in a Petri dish, a genetically engineered mouse or rat, or larger animal such as a pig. Each type of model has its pros and cons, including cost and similarity of disease characteristics to those in humans.
The investigators then use the model to study how vision is lost — that is, they figure out which types of retinal cells degenerate, what is causing the degeneration, and how quickly the cells stop working. After they gain an understanding of the disease, researchers evaluate potential therapeutic approaches using the model as a testing platform.
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