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Preclinical Data Show Promise for Diabetic Eye Drug

Diabetic macular edema progression

Progression of vision loss from diabetic macular edema — Left: normal vision, Middle: blurred vision from diabetic macular edema, Right: floating spots from hemorrhages in the eye. (National Eye Institute, Verseon Corp.)

26 June 2017. Early evidence shows a drug designed as eye drops to treat diabetic macular edema, an eye disease in people with diabetes, permeates the entire eye, including the retina. Verseon Corp., a biotechnology enterprise in Fremont, California developing the drug, presented its results on 22 June at the annual meeting of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, or BIO, in San Diego.

Diabetic macular edema can cause blurred vision and severe vision loss leading to blindness. It occurs when diabetes damages blood vessels in the eye, a condition known as diabetic retinopathy, resulting in leakage of blood and fluid, as well as swelling. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults aged 20 to 74. In 2011 the agency reported that from 2005 to 2008, some 4.2 million individuals — 28.5 percent of people with diabetes aged 40 years or older  — had diabetic retinopathy.

Most treatments today for diabetic macular edema require individuals to receive laser treatments or injections into the eye that reduce leakage from damaged blood vessels and the swelling that goes with it. Verseon’s treatment, as yet unnamed, addresses the plasma kallikrein-kinin system, a pathway producing peptides that encourage inflammation and dilation of blood vessels, activated when blood vessels are injured. The company says its formulation is designed to be administered as eye drops, instead of invasive lasers or injections, to block plasma kallikrein-kinin peptides in the eyes.

Verseon’s platform is based on computational modeling of molecular interactions. The company says it writes algorithms that integrate and optimize synthetic and natural chemical compounds, resulting in the design of new synthetic drug treatments. Its current products in development include an anti-coagulation drug — its lead product — and treatments blocking the rapid proliferation of new blood vessels in solid tumors, as well as the diabetic macular edema drug.

At the BIO meeting, Verseon presented results of its first tests of the diabetic macular edema drug on lab animals. The company says its drug, given with systematic doses, successfully infused into and throughout the eye, including to the back of the eye, where the retina is located, the part of the eye damaged by the disease. In addition, tests with other formulations of the drug show through activity in the body it could be given as an oral drug, as well as eye drops.

David Kita,  a founder of Verseon in 2002 and the company’s vice president for R&D, gave the BIO presentation. Verseon’s executives and staff combine offer expertise in physics, mathematics, medicinal and synthetic chemistry, biology, computer science, and early-stage drug discovery.

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