Exciting News For Fighting Blindness Researchers!

Professor Tom Cotter  Awarded €1.1 Million Funding from Science Foundation Ireland

Image of Prof Tom CotterCongratulations to Fighting Blindness researcher Professor Tom Cotter (pictured left) in University College Cork (UCC) who was awarded €1.1 million from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) in April.

Professor Cotter is the head of a large research group in Cork and he is a world expert in the area of apoptosis, this is the mechanism by which cells die. For the past number of years Tom and his team have been investigating the mechanism of photoreceptor cell death in retinal degenerations. Tom has demonstrated that the compound Norgestrel (the active compound of the oral contraceptive, the ‘minipill’) lends a protective effect to photoreceptor cells, preventing their death and therefore maintaining vision.

Fighting Blindness has been funding Professor Cotter’s work for nearly 20 years and this new funding will allow the team to build on their encouraging results to develop this potential therapy towards a clinical trial.


Trinity Researchers Discover Potentially Novel Therapy For AMD

Image of Dr Matthew CampbellScientists at Trinity College Dublin have made a major breakthrough with important implications for people affected by age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The scientists found that a component of the immune system, ‘IL-18’, acts as a guardian of eyesight by suppressing the production of damaging blood vessels behind the retina at the back of the eye. In addition, in pre-clinical models, it was shown that ‘IL-18’ can be administered in a non-invasive way, which could represent a major improvement on the current therapeutic options that are open to patients.

From a patient point of view this work is hugely welcomed for a number of reasons:

This potential treatment can be administered at an early stage of AMD, preventing the movement from early AMD to advanced, wet AMD by preventing the growth of abnormal blood vessels. There are currently no drug treatments available for individuals diagnosed with early stage AMD.

IL-18 is already in human clinical trial for a range of cancers, and is well tolerated at very high doses in these patients. Therefore the route to the clinic, in conjunction with pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), for AMD patients will be expedited.

Replacement of regular, direct eye injections by non-invasive systemic injection is a more attractive method of drug delivery for individuals living with AMD.

Fighting Blindness welcomes this important publication by the researchers in Trinity College, Dublin and we are delighted that our longstanding support of the Department of Genetics has led to this stage. There is currently an unmet clinical need for early intervention regarding AMD, and preventing the onset of the late stages of the disease. We are hopeful that this work will translate into the development of better treatments for this extremely prevalent condition.

For more information about this, or any other research, please contact Fighting Blindness Research Manager, Maria Meehan on maria.meehan@fightingblindness.ie or 01 6789 004.