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Article on Macular Degeneration

September 17, 2018

Dr. Berlin, ophthalmologist at The Iris Network and founder of the Low Vision Clinic in Portland, has reviewed the following article and extracted a shorter version for you (below). If anyone has more questions, feel free to call The Iris Network at (207) 774-6273 and leave their contact information and the good doctor has offered to get back to you.

Hope for new macular degeneration treatments buoys patients

Boston Globe

By Robert Weisman GLOBE STAFF  September 09, 2018 

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/09/09/hope-for-new-treatments-buoys-macular-degeneration-patients/TNBU9Nib9HWN5DwusJIMAK/story.html?s_campaign=8315 

Thoughts on New Macular Degeneration Treatments 

There’s currently no cure for the disorder, and no treatment for its most common form, which accounts for 85 percent of cases. 

New approaches such as gene therapies, stem cell treatments, and medicines are being tailored to the genetic makeup of patients. 

Joan Miller, MD, Chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston, who helped pioneer the science behind Lucentis, approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2006 as the first treatment for the wet form of age-related macular degeneration, hopes to see a new generation of treatments emerging in the next five to 10 years. 

The emerging field of gene therapies, for instance, promises “one and done” procedures that could stop the disease in its tracks by inserting healthy genes into cells in place of defective or missing ones. Another approach involves stimulating cells in the retina to act as mini-production factories that generate proteins to protect the macular.

Hemera Biosciences, a Waltham startup, is seeking to develop a kind of vaccine that would make treatments easier and less invasive for patients with the wet form of macular degeneration.

Biopharma giants such as Genentech, Novartis, and Regeneron are also working on experimental medicines. So are a raft of biotech startups ranging from Cambridge’s Gemini Therapeutics to Regenxbio in Rockville, Md.

“Patients in their 60s and 70s will go to their ophthalmologists,” said Hemera chief executive Adam Rogers. “If they’re diagnosed with wet form of AMD, they can receive a shot and keep it at bay during their lifetimes. I think that’s something we could see in the next five to seven years.”

The approval of the first-ever gene therapy for any disease last December galvanized eye researchers. The new drug, Luxturna, treats a rare genetic retinal disease in children by replacing a mutation with a corrective gene. In March, Mass Eye and Ear performed the first-ever procedure to administer the drug to a patient. 

“Gene therapies have incredible potential” to treat the disease, said Luk Vandenberghe, cofounder of Odylia Therapeutics, a Boston nonprofit working to commercialize retinal disease research. Decades of research to understand diseases is now helping to power the new approaches to treatments, he said. 

This information is excerpted from an article published in the Globe Staff by Robert Weisman on September 9, 2018. 

A. Jan Berlin, M.D.

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