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Patent Awarded for Macular Degeneration Eyedrop Technology

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (A. Kotok)

4 December 2014. SciFluor Life Sciences LLC, a biopharmaceutical company in Cambridge, Massachusetts received a patent on a fluoride formulation for treating diseases of the retina with eyedrops rather than injections into the eye as often required. Patent 8,901,144 was awarded on 2 December by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to four inventors, including a founder of the company, and assigned to SciFluor Life Sciences.

The patent covers compounds derived from fluorinated acids and salts used to limit the actions of integrins, proteins found on the surface of cells that form connections with other cells in a wide range of biological processes, from development of embryonic tissue to blood clotting and response of the immune system to infections. Integrins can become aberrant, however, and are implicated in development of several diseases, including age-related macular degeneration and diabetic macular edema.

Age-related macular degeneration is a common eye disorder, where damage to the macula, a small spot in the center of the retina, becomes damaged, resulting in progressive loss of vision. Over time, central vision becomes blurred and grows, disrupting the ability to read, drive, work, or recognize faces. The disorder is most common in older individuals, and a leading cause of vision loss among people age 50 and older.

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.

SciFluor Life Sciences develops small-molecule compounds that enhance the power of fluoride, a chemical used in about a quarter of all marketed drugs, focusing on known disease targets. The new patent covers a compound in development by SciFluor, code-named SF0166, that limits the actions of an integrin receptor, making it possible to deliver treatments in high-enough concentrations as eyedrops to treat these disorders of the retina.

In the case of neovascular or wet age-related macular degeneration, treatments today are delivered to the back of the retina by injections directly into the eye. SciFluor says it tested SF0166 in preclinical studies and found it can deliver therapies for these conditions as a topical treatment — i.e., as eyedrops — to the back of the eye, much like injections. Treatments given as eyedrops would likely have much more appeal to patients and physicians than injections.

SciFluor was founded by Harvard University chemist and chemical biologist Tobias Ritter and Takeru Furuya, a Ph.D. in chemistry from Harvard, and now the company’s chief chemist. Furuya is one of the inventors of the technology covered under the new patent, along with Ben Askew, SciFluor’s vice-president for research. SciFluor is a subsidiary of Allied Minds, a holding company that commercializes research in the U.S. by forming, funding, and managing start-up enterprises based on discoveries in university and research institute labs.

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