Newswise — Researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago have been awarded a five-year, $10.15 million grant to develop a broad-spectrum immunomodulatory eye drop to treat patients with severe dry eye and ocular surface disease due to inflammatory and immune system disorders.  

Dr. Sandeep Jain, a professor of ophthalmology at UIC’s College of Medicine, is principal investigator. He received the grant from the National Eye Institute for a “Translational Research Program to Develop Novel Therapies and Devices for the Treatment of Visual System Disorders.” 

In the U.S., over 14% of the population older than 50 experience dry eye, according to Jain. Dry eye can be caused by medical conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, thyroid disease, and sarcoidosis. Aging is also a common cause.  

Currently, drugs approved to treat dry eye conditions affect the T-cell function and do not have any actions against pathogenic autoantibodies. Researchers plan to develop an antibody-based eye drop that contains pooled human immune globulins as an active ingredient, which have broad-spectrum immunomodulatory actions via anti-idiotypic, molecular and cellular mechanisms. The new eye drops are expected to be particularly helpful in patients who have dry eyes due to immune disorders.  

The new grant will fund production of preclinical data that supports a commercial application to the U.S. Federal Drug Administration to enable testing the pooled human immune globulin eye drops in phased clinical trials.  

“Our hope is that we can improve the quality of life of patients who suffer greatly because of dry eyes due to inflammatory and immune system disorders because of lack of availability of effective therapies,” Jain said. 

Jain’s research experience includes key discoveries in dry eye conditions, such as the presence of Neutrophil Extracellular Traps on the ocular surface of patients with dry eye disease and anti-citrullinated proteins and autoantibodies in the tears. He was the first to describe the use of pooled human immune globulin eye drops for treating dry eye patients. 

The investigative research team also includes Matthew Lindeblad, Yi-Fan Chen, Dr. Nadera Sweiss and Dr. Damiano Rondelli all of UIC; Polireddy Dondeti, of Saptalis Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; Simon Kaja, of Loyola University in Chicago; Dr. Mariana Kaplan of the NIH/National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Grant 1R24EY032440 is funded through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health National Eye Institute. 

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