US company SurModics is evaluating a biodegradeable polymer technology, developed at Rutgers University, that could improve the delivery of drugs into the eye.
The specialist in surface modification and drug delivery has obtained an option to acquire an exclusive license from Rutgers to two classes of polymer developed by Dr Joachim Kohn, director of the New Jersey Center for Biomaterials and Professor at Rutgers.
At present, most ophthalmic drugs are delivered via eye drops, but it is estimated that 95 per cent of the activity of medication delivered in this way is lost as the eye drops mix with tears and drain into the nasal canal. This can also cause side effects.
Biodegradable polymers have the ability to be combined with one or more drugs and applied to a medical device, or administered alone with a drug, yet are naturally degraded in the body over time. Both of the licensed polymer families from Rutgers, known as polycarbonates and polyarylates, are derived from the amino acid tyrosine, a naturally occurring substance in the body and have been under extensive evaluation by others for various applications.
Meanwhile, SurModics has been building a technology portfolio in ophthalmic drug delivery, and earlier this year bought InnoRx, which specialises in the development of intravitreal implants that deliver drugs directly into the eye.
Bruce Barclay, president and chief operating officer of SurModics said: "By combining these polymer families with the drug delivery platform technologies acquired from InnoRx, we expect to be able to deliver a wide variety of drugs and other bioactive agents to the eye, treating such serious diseases as age related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic macular edema (DME), two of the leading causes of blindness in adults today, as well as glaucoma.
The global ophthalmological drugs market is a $7 billion industry and is expected to grow to $14 billion by 2012.
SurModics said it now has seven distinct families of polymers available for use in site specific delivery of drugs to the eye. The two polymer classes from Rutgers join the two biodegradable polymer families, PolyActive and Octodex, licensed by SurModics from OctoPlus, a company based in the Netherlands.
In addition, SurModics has three internally developed polymer families - Bravo, Encore and Accolade - available for this application. Bravo has already reached the market as a critical component of Cordis' Cypher (sirolimus) drug-eluting coronary stent .
The Rutgers polycarbonates are a biodegradable, multiblock, polymeric drug delivery system based on two well-known polymer and are particularly suited to the controlled release of hydrophobic small molecule drugs, according to the company.
The polycarbonates are the class of polymers used by REVA Medical in the development of a bioresorbable drug eluting stent, in trials and partnered with Boston Scientific.
The polyarylates represent a delivery system for the controlled release of small molecules as well as proteins and other large molecules. Both polycarbonates and polyarylates have been extensively evaluated to demonstrate their safety. Further, it has been shown that these polymers can be made into durable films, coated onto medical devices and used to deliver a variety of large and small molecules with tunable elution rates.