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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R024839/1
Title: Injectable devices for sustained ocular drug delivery
Principal Investigator: Kearns, Dr VR
Other Investigators:
McDonald, Dr T O Rannard, Professor S
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Fluoron GmbH Kirkstall Ltd Royal Liverpool University Hospitals NHS
Department: Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease
Organisation: University of Liverpool
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 October 2018 Ends: 30 September 2021 Value (£): 838,666
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Drug Formulation & Delivery
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Healthcare
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
15 Feb 2018 HIPs 2017 and IRC Next Steps Plus Panel Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
This Healthcare Impact Partnership will use drug delivery technologies previously invented by us to develop novel, injectable devices to provide targeted, controlled and sustained drug delivery to the inside of the eye. These devices will address unmet clinical needs in two groups of patients. In addition, we will develop sophisticated benchtop and computer models of drug release in the eye, to allow us to speed up development and reduce the amount of animal testing required to use the devices in humans.

Over 5.7 million people in the UK are living with sight-threatening eye conditions. These include conditions that can develop as a result of diabetes, macular degeneration and retinal detachment. The current best practice for treatment of the scarring that can follow retinal detachment is injection of silicone oil into the eye to replace the vitreous. It has been proposed that, in addition to the oil, sustained drug delivery could help reduce the development of scarring. We have previously developed technology to achieve controlled, extended release of drugs from silicone oils, and now wish to apply these technologies to silicone oils that are suitable for use in patients. Treatment for other sight-threatening conditions requires patients to have frequent injections of drugs directly into the eye over many years. This can be uncomfortable and inconvenient for patients, places a burden on the healthcare system and is not feasible in developing countries. A small number of drug delivery devices that reduce the number of injections needed are available, but these must either be removed once the drug release is complete, or, if the device is degradable, do not last much longer than standard injections. We have previously developed technology to make drugs into nanoparticles. We will develop a drug delivery system constructed of nanoparticles inside a material that forms a gel when it is injected into the eye. After the drug has been released, the gel would degrade into non-toxic components. The advantages of this over existing devices are that this technology could be tailored in terms of the drug and dosing, and that higher doses will be possible due to the use of nanoparticles. Both of our delivery devices are injectable, and will improve patient outcomes, particularly in developing countries and patients that present late.

Our team is multidisciplinary, including academics specialising in ophthalmic biomaterials and drug delivery. A clinical ophthalmologist specialising in drug delivery will ensure that our technologies are suitable for clinical use. We will also engage with patients groups, who will help inform our development strategy. In order to accelerate the technologies towards the production of devices that are suitable for use in patients, we have partnered with a company who manufacture silicone oil products used to treat retinal detachment. With their expertise, we will be able to ensure that we include certain crucial aspects as we develop our technologies, such as how to scale up manufacture from the laboratory to that suitable for commercial use, and the generation of data that is required for the products to gain a licence for clinical use. Another commercial partner specialising in the production of models to replace animal testing will help us optimise our models, and promote their use to other organisations who are interested in reducing animal use.

We will apply our silicone oil-based drug release technology to commercially-available oils, ensuring the resulting product has appropriate physical properties to remain functional in the eye, is not toxic, and has optimal drug release. We will also develop our nanoparticle system, optimising physical, drug-release and toxic properties. At the same time, we will develop existing benchtop and computer models so that they will be able to predict drug release from our devices.

Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.liv.ac.uk