FFB Funds Oxford BioMedica Study of Gene Treatment in AMD

FFB will fund a pre-clinical study, directed by a researcher at the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute, to test the drug RetinoStat on animals to establish safety and effectiveness in treating AMD.

The Foundation Fighting Blindness is pleased to announce its funding of the study sponsored by Oxford BioMedica of Oxford, England, and San Diego, California. The funding will be used for preclinical studies of a gene-based product called RetinoStat, to prevent blood vessel proliferation that occurs in the wet form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy.

Dr. Peter Campochiaro of the Wilmer Eye Institute of Johns Hopkins University will direct the research. Dr. Campochiaro is a world leader in the development of preclinical models for AMD, the most common cause of vision loss in the U.S. and Europe for people over 55. Preclinical studies test drugs on animals and in other nonhuman test systems. Results from preclinical studies help establish safe doses of drugs for testing in people.

In AMD and proliferative diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels grow into the retina in response to the release of a growth factor from surrounding tissues. The blood vessels are weak and tend to leak blood and fluid, which affect vision and kill retinal cells. RetinoStat, is a gene therapy designed to halt this angiogenesis (blood vessel growth) by targeting gene expression in retinal cells and gearing them up to produce an angiostatic substance that would block the emergence of unwanted vessels.

The researchers see this as a possible treatment for AMD and additional retinal vascular disorders. Other therapies may damage the retina or require repeated treatments. Dr. Gerald Chader, chief scientific officer of the Foundation Fighting Blindness, agrees that this research is important. "The urgent mission of the FFB is to prevent, treat, or cure retinal disorders such as AMD," he states. "For this purpose, we seek collaborations with the best biopharmaceutical companies. With its excellent leadership, innovative technology, and clinical experience in the field, Oxford BioMedica is certainly such a company. Most importantly, because of its novel vector, gene cargo, and response element used to control gene expression, RetinoStat has all the characteristics of a successful angiostatic product."