Technology developed by the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University to help deliver drugs and other therapeutics to specific locations in the eye is the foundation for a startup company. The startup “Clearside Biomedical” was formed with the assistance of Georgia Tech’s VentureLab program which helps obtain early-stage seed funding from the Georgia Research Alliance.
The technology was developed by the research team led by Mark Prausnitz, a Professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in collaboration with Henry Edelhauser, a Professor in the Department of Ophthalmology at Emory School of Medicine. The research leading to the development of the technology was sponsored by NIH.
The Atlanta-based “Clearside Biomedical” received a venture capital investment of $4 million to develop the microinjection technology. The funding came from Hatteras Venture Partners, a venture capital firm based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina that focuses on seed and early-stage investments in companies developing products in biopharmaceutical, medical device, diagnostic, and related human health areas.
The microinjection technology will use hollow microneedles to precisely target therapeutics within the eye. If the technique proves successful in clinical trials and wins regulatory approval, this technology could provide an improved method for treating diseases that affect the back of the eye, including age-related macular degeneration.
Drugs today can be delivered to the retinal tissues at the back of the eye in three indirect ways. One way is to inject using a hypodermic needle into the eye’s vitreous humor, the gelatinous material that fills the eyeball, or use eye drops which are limited in reaching the back of the eye, or taking pills that expose the whole body to the drug.
With the development of new the technology researchers are able to use a hollow micron-scale needle to inject therapeutics into the suprachoroidal space located between the outer surface of the eye known as the sclera and the choroid which is a deeper layer providing nutrients to the rest of the eye. Preclinical research has demonstrated that fluid can flow between the two layers where it can spread out to the entire eye, including to the retina that is difficult to reach.
So far, the technique has been tested only in animals. The funding will enable the company to conduct additional efficacy and safety testing needed to seek regulatory approval. The company’s first product is expected to address macular edema and retinal vein occlusion.
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In a project in Virginia, the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) a nonprofit corporation has invested CIT Gap Funds of $50,000 in the University of Virginia’s based start-up Rivanna Medical, a company specializing in portable low cost, radiation free x ray replacement technology based on medical ultrasound.
Rivanna Medical’s ultrasound technology is set to create a pipeline of advance handheld ultrasound products. The company’s technology enables clear delineation of bone structures with 3D imaging capabilities all contained in low cost handheld devices. According to the company their devices provides sharper contrast, resolution, and reduced noise when compared with standard ultrasounds due to advance signal processing technology. The product is a smart phone sized device targeting the spinal anesthesia market as a replacement for fluoroscopy guided or blind needle insertion.
Markets for the technology include spinal anesthesia, the diagnosis of bone fractures, and guidance for orthopedic surgeries. The combined market size is approximately $664 million per year in the U.S. and for Rivanna Medical’s product alone, the U.S. market is estimated at $208 million per year due to a population of 41,000 anesthesiologists and the fact that 18 million spinal anesthesia procedures performed each year.
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