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20/20: NSERC Ophthalmic Materials Network

Challenge

The CNIB estimates the direct and indirect costs of vision loss in Canada at $7.9 billion per year. There are more than 836,000 Canadians living with significant vision loss that cannot be corrected using existing technology. With our aging population, this number is expected to increase dramatically over the next 10 years. Furthermore, while there are new ocular drugs in development, successful delivery of therapeutic doses of these drugs to the eye remains problematic. Therefore, the development of new ophthalmic materials and drug delivery devices is clearly needed by individual patients and society as a whole.

A lifetime of perfect vision is the overarching goal of 20/20. Research by 20/20 is aimed at the development of new biomaterials – and ultimately new therapies – for treating vision disorders.

Network Structure

The This link will take you to another Web site 20/20 Network brings together 12 researchers from four Canadian universities and 10 industrial partners and has as its broad goal the generation of novel materials-based solutions to vision loss. Overall, 20/20’s industry partners represent the broad range of applications the Network’s research is expected to impact and include: manufacturers of the raw materials used in ophthalmic devices, medical devices, ophthalmic pharmaceuticals and ophthalmic drug delivery systems.

The Network’s research is organized within two themes: Materials and Drug Delivery. Bioactivity and biocompatibility model development and testing is another research thrust and spans both themes. The 20/20 Network will train 30 to 40 post-doctoral fellows, 35 to 45 graduate students and over 60 summer students during its five-year lifetime.

In 2008, 20/20 was awarded $5 million in research funding over five years. Collaborating partners, including the Ontario Centres of Excellence – Centre for Materials and Manufacturing, will contribute a further $1.8 million cash and in-kind support over this period.

The 20/20 Board of Directors governs the network, the Scientific Committee oversees the research projects and sets research priorities, and the Technology Exploitation Committee, a sub-committee of the Board, facilitates and actively searches for new technology transfer opportunities.

Research Objectives

Through improvement of the understanding of fundamental structure: property relationships, 20/20 will efficiently develop promising materials and drug delivery devices for anterior and posterior segment ophthalmic applications. Specifically, the Network will:

  • understand the fundamental scientific principles that underlie the biocompatibility of composite and hybrid material platforms in the eye;
  • generate new hybrid materials for ophthalmic device and drug delivery applications;
  • generate and examine novel materials including microgels, microemulsions and triggerable materials in ophthalmic applications;
  • improve understanding of the biodistribution of drug delivery vehicles and the pharmacokinetics of released drug delivered to the back of the eye, and use these principles to develop new materials and drug delivery systems for use in the front and back of the eye;
  • develop in vitro and in vivo models for examining the biocompatibility of materials and drug delivery systems developed.

Outcomes

The research projects of 20/20 will yield new materials which may lead to commercial development by the Network’s industrial partners of, for example:

  • contact lenses without end-of-day dryness and discomfort issues;
  • intraocular lenses with low complication rates;
  • drug delivery systems for the back of the eye to take away the need for painful monthly injections

Having been members of multidisciplinary teams, and having had considerable access to industrial scientists, state-of-the-art equipment and cutting-edge techniques, the scientists trained within 20/20 will be uniquely qualified for careers within the medical device industry and the broader biotechnology sector.

Contact

Dr. Heather Sheardown
Tel.: 905-525-9149, Ext. 24794
E-mail: sheardow@mcmaster.ca
Web site: This link will take you to another Web site www.2020network.ca


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