A recently awarded Health Research Council (HRC) project grant will investigate a novel eye drop that tackles the vicious circle of dry eye disease (DED), one of the most common, yet undertreated, chronic ocular surface conditions.
Multifactorial in nature, DED can arise from numerous interrelated underlying pathologies. Current therapies, however, often address only a single issue, resulting in suboptimal treatment outcomes, said investigators, led by Associate Professor Ilva Rupenthal, director of the Buchanan Ocular Therapeutics Unit, in collaboration with Associate Professor Jennifer Craig, Dr Stuti Misra and Dr Priyanka Agarwal, from the University of Auckland. “Moreover, response to therapy is often slow with adverse effects from formulation excipients such as preservatives and surfactants causing further ocular toxicity upon long-term use, ultimately worsening DED symptoms.”
A/Profs Jennifer Craig and Ilva Rupenthal with Dr Stuti Misra (centre)
This project will investigate the development of a preservative-free eye drop that tackles both tear film instability and ocular surface inflammation, without the need for further additives, to break the vicious circle of DED (Fig 1). This will be achieved by combining the inflammasome inhibitor, tonabersat, tackling inflammation upstream of currently used anti-inflammatory drugs, with a hydrocarbon vehicle able to stabilise the tear film lipid layer, said A/Prof Rupenthal who, together with Dr Agarwal, will be responsible for formulation development and characterisation, while A/Prof Craig and Dr Misra will map inflammasome involvement in DED patients to aid clinical translation. The research team will be supported by two PhD students, Santosh Bhujbal and a clinical researcher who is yet to be appointed, and will collaborate with the University of Cologne in Germany to test the developed eye drop in a pre-clinical model of DED
“We are very excited to get this project started and develop an eye drop that tackles underlying inflammation while also addressing the tear film instability seen in most DED patients,” said the team. “DED remains one of the most common, yet undertreated chronic ocular surface conditions which negatively impacts the quality of life of patients. This eye drop has the potential to narrow the significant gap between diagnosed and appropriately treated DED patients in the near future.”