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Start-Up Licensing Antibody Eye Drops for Dry Eye Disease

Red-blue-green eye

(Public Domain Pictures, Pixabay)

6 Mar. 2023. An enterprise spun off from university labs is licensing its technology to a drug maker for eye drops with immune-system antibodies to treat dry eye disease. The pharmaceutical company Grifols in Barcelona, Spain is collaborating with and gaining technology developed by Selagine Inc., based on research in ophthalmology labs at University of Illinois in Chicago.

Selagine, founded by Sandeep Jain, professor of ophthalmology at University of Illinois in Chicago, is commercializing research by Jain’s Corneal Neurobiology Laboratory, affiliated with the University of Illinois Eye and Ear infirmary. The lab studies diseases affecting the cornea, the lens on the outer edge of the eye for focusing on an object. The company’s lead product is a treatment candidate for dry eye disease code-named SLG-100. Jain started Selagine in 2021 and is also the company’s president.

Dry eye disease is a common inflammatory disorder that occurs when eyes do not make enough tears, or tears dry too quickly or do not function properly in the eyes. Symptoms of dry eye disease include scratchy or burning in the eyes, redness in the eyes, light sensitivity, and blurry vision. The disorder occurs more frequently among older adults, women, and people wearing contact lenses, and in some cases can result from autoimmune conditions such as lupus or Sjögren syndrome. National Eye Institute says nearly 16 million people in the U.S. have dry eye disease.

Selagine says some currently approved drugs are designed to reduce immune dysfunctions causing dry eye disease, mainly by breaking the inflammatory cycle initiated by T-cells in the immune system. While these current drugs may may affect T-cell functioning, says the company, they do not address specific inflammatory enzymes or auto-immune antibodies causing dry eye disease. SLG-100, says Selagine, contains pooled donated human immunoglobulins, antibody proteins in blood that work specifically against a range of cytokines or immune-system enzymes and auto-immune antibodies responsible for dry eye disease.

Ocular surface immunoglobulin eye drops

The company says it tested SLG-100 in a small early-stage clinical trial, where individuals with dry eye disease took eye drops with SLG-100 twice a day for eight weeks. Selagine says participants taking SLG-100 show fewer dry eye disease symptoms than those taking a placebo, with no difference between the two groups in tolerability or adverse effects. (No further details were released.) The university plans a mid-stage trial enrolling 40 participants to test ocular surface immunoglobulin eye drops against a placebo.

Grifols is a global drug maker developing most of its treatments based on plasma, the liquid component in blood. The company’s technologies derive therapies from proteins in plasma, including immunoglobulins to treat immunodeficiencies or auto-immune disorders.  In the deal with Selagine, the two companies are collaborating on ocular surface immunoglobulin eye drops to treat dry eye disease, with Selagine providing research and clinical expertise, and Grifols offering its experience in development and manufacturing of immunoglobulins, with both companies sharing the work through FDA approval.

“This collaboration,” says Jain in a Selagine statement released through Cision, “builds upon complementary expertise of the two companies to provide a clear pathway to completing development and regulatory activities and executing a successful commercial launch of immunoglobulin eye drops for chronic dry eye disease indication.”

Under the agreement, Grifols is funding development of immunoglobulin eye drops through approval by FDA, and receiving a license to the underlying technology. Selagine is receiving an initial payment and is eligible for milestone payments and royalties on product sales from the collaboration, but dollar amounts are not disclosed.

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