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Foundation to Fund Drug Maker Diabetic Eye Disease Research

Women's eye closeup (


KalVista Pharmaceuticals in Southampton, U.K. and JDRF in New York have formed a partnership to develop a drug candidate with potential to slow the advance of diabetic macular edema (DME). The collaboration aims to move KalVista’s plasma kallikrein inhibitor into human proof-of-concept clinical trials and generate clinical data to highlight its potential as a new approach to treat DME, a leading cause of visual loss for people with type 1 diabetes.

DME, also known as diabetic retinopathy, involves swelling of the retina, which can lead to blurred vision and blindness. Plasma kallikrein is an enzyme that research has shown contributes to increases in blood vessel leakage and thickening of the retina.

Studies by one of KalVista’s co-founders, Edward Feener, also a professor at Harvard Medical School, demonstrated that plasma kallikrein is increased and activated in the vitreous fluid of people with DME. Feener’s data suggest that chronic activation of plasma kallikrein increases blood vessel inflammation and permeability by generating a hormone called bradykinin, which causes blood vessels to dilate or enlarge. Plasma kallikrein inhibitors are believed to suppress chronic and excessive production of bradykinin, and thus reduce retinal vessel leakage.

JDRF — formerly known as Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation — will provide up to $2.2 million in milestone-based financial support and research expertise to KalVista.  KalVista’s candidate will be selected from small molecule plasma kallikrein inhibitors now in pre-clinical development, administered by intravitreal injection into the eye. The pre-clinical studies co-funded by JDRF will test whether plasma kallikrein inhibitors by injection are likely to be safe and effective in improving symptoms of DME as well as in preserving visual acuity and slowing disease progression.

Read more: Foundation, Company Partner on Diabetes Clinical Study

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