Easy On The Eye

Israeli doctors develop revolutionary eye drops that could replace eyeglasses

By David E. Kaplan

More than 6 in 10 people in the world wear glasses or contact lenses. Amongst the elder, it is extremely rare not to use glasses or contact lenses.

However, in the foreSEEable future, advanced eye drops may allow you to chuck out your glasses or contact lenses.

It’s a no-brainer:

If the choice to see well would be: glasses, contact lenses, laser    surgery or drops in your eyes, the last option would probably be your first.

This is now a real possibility as new scientific advances in Israel make corrective eye drops possible.

In Israel, two startups are in the clinical stages of testing their corrective eye drops that can radically alter the way people improve the convenience of their vision.

 Soon you may read this without glasses!

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A Sight For Sore Eyes. Presbyopia is the inability to focus on near objects. It occurs after the age of 40 and affects more than 1.8 billion people worldwide.

Orasis Pharmaceuticals of Herzliya are on the warpath against reading glasses. Sure, reading glasses are effective but they are also inconvenient and easily misplaced.

How many of you have at some time lost them and had to replace?

Orasis recently raised $13 million to continue developing pharmaceutical-grade eye drops intended to improve near vision so people won’t need their reading glasses.

Its CEO, Elad Kedar, says presbyoia (the inability to focus on close objects) affects most folk over age 45, giving the company a potential market of nearly 2 billion people around the globe; 120 million in United States.

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“Like any other organ, the lenses in our eyes age and gradually lose the flexibility to change shape to focus on near objects,” explains Kedar. “The reduction in flexibility makes it difficult to focus on near objects and eventually you need reading glasses.”

While it has been a long journey to find alternative solutions such as contact lenses or inlays, they have all come with problems of efficacy, safety or convenience of use.

We developed a pharmacological solution,” says Kedar, “using a combination of existing molecules already used in the eye for other indications. You just put a drop in each eye, and you can potentially see well for several hours. It can be very safe and convenient.”

More than five years of R&D have gone into Orasis’ CSF-1 patented formula. Following studies in humans in a few centers in Israel and Europe, the results are soon to be published. The next step is a Phase 2b study in the United States.

Advances in Treatment of Presbyopia with Elad Kedar Orasis Pharmaceuticals

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Look Familiar? Presbyopia cannot be prevented or reversed, and it continues to progress gradually.

Bringing into Focus

Another ‘eye-catching’ innovation is NANO-DROPS that means -“No more blurry vision.”

Israeli ophthalmologists at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem and Bar-Ilan University’s Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials (BINA) revealed last month that they have successfully developed eyedrops that repair the corneas, improving near-sighted and far-sighted vision. These “nanodrops” were successfully tested on pigs’ corneas and are expected to be tested on humans in clinical trials later this year.

If proven successful on humans, the groundbreaking discovery could remove the need for eyeglasses.

The nanodrops are made up of a synthetic nanoparticle solution, which helps correct cornea-related vision problems.

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Seeing Is Believing. Eyedrops instead of glasses or contact lenses.

Dr. David Smadja, a research associate at BINA and the Head of the Ophthalmology Research Unit at Shaare Zedek who led the team of ophthalmologists, made the announcement at Shaare Zedek’s second annual research conference last month. He said the nanodrops could “revolutionize ophthalmological and optometry treatments of patients with myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and other refractory conditions.

Even more ‘far out’, Smadja believes that the drops could eventually replace multifocal lenses and allow people to see objects from different distances.

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Setting Their “Sights” High. From left, Nano-Drops developers Dr. David Smadja, Prof. Zeev Zalevsky and Prof. Jean-Paul Moshe Lellouche. (Photo courtesy of Bar-Ilan University)

The inspiration for the eye drops says Smadja, “was personal.” Suffering for years with headaches from working at his computer for long periods of time, “I knew I needed a small visual correction, but my choices were limited. My correction was so small that I was not eligible for any laser operation,” and hence “My options at the time were either wearing glasses or contact lenses.”

Smadja recognised that the standard solutions for visual correction failed to cure dry eyes, a symptom common among screen users, and decided to create a better alternative:

I thought, why not make eye drops that could correct my vision with a refractive index?”

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Eye-catching. CSF-1 is designed to improve near visual acuity by pupil modulation, resulting in a “pinhole effect” and an increase in the depth of field, thus increasing the ability to focus on near objects.

The Future Is Ours To See

The researchers are currently working with investors on a biotech startup and plan to place their Nano-Drops product on the market by the summer of 2020.

Smadja says the aim is to sell the drops at a competitive price, “somewhere between the price of eyeglasses and the price of contacts.”

In addition to the nanodrops, the researchers are developing a small, smartphone-compatible laser device that will allow patients to easily apply the drops at home using a mobile application.

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Application of the Nano-Drops onto the cornea of a pig’s eye with a calibrated pipette (Bar-Ilan University)

“Once you have your prescription, you enter this number into a computation software that we developed, and we match specific patterns to your number. The laser painlessly marks a tiny spot and etches a pattern on the corner of the cornea,” explains Smadja who adds that the laser “is not like the laser used for complicated optical procedures.” He assures that the application process, “while seemingly complicated, is simple and non-invasive.”

As they say, Israel is a country of ‘VISIONaries”!

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