Feature Stories

Accelerating Research and Development in Ophthalmology to Drive Innovation

Sep 29, 2017

Astellas has prioritized ophthalmology, and specifically retinal diseases, as a new therapeutic area that can help us grow our portfolio of innovative medicines and serve patients with unmet medical needs.

The Astellas Institute for Regenerative Medicine (AIRM), established in May 2016 following our acquisition of Ocata Therapeutics, serves as the global hub for regenerative medicine and cell therapy research in ophthalmology.

Our research focuses on potential treatments for disorders of the back two-thirds of the eye, where no standard drug treatments are currently available. These include:

  • Retinitis pigmentosa: A group of inherited diseases that causes the photoreceptors (cells that are part of the retina perceiving light lining the back of the eye), to lose function.
  • Dry age related macular degeneration: A progressive condition leading to loss of photoreceptors secondary to loss of the retinal pigment epithelium, a single layer of support cells required to maintain the health of the photoreceptors in the eye. It is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss in adults older than 55 years of age.
  • Stargardt’s macular degeneration: The most common form of juvenile onset macular degeneration for which there is no treatment available currently.
  • Diabetic macular edema: Accumulation of fluid in the macula due to leaking blood vessels for those with diabetic retinopathy (a complication of diabetes that affects the eyes).

“Regenerative medicine has the potential to revolutionize medicine, and the work we’re doing in ophthalmology is helping us bring new potential therapies to market to treat eye diseases that otherwise may cause significant vision loss in patients,” said Eddy Anglade, chief medical officer and global therapeutic area head, AIRM. “Our work is truly changing tomorrow by addressing some of the most significant unmet medical needs in eye diseases.”

We are addressing these disorders by developing cell therapies, or transplanting healthy cells into diseased tissue. Cell therapy is an important investment because eye function can be potentially restored through the replacement of affected tissue; meanwhile, it requires relatively few cells for transplantation, and rejection is rare. Finally, clinical trial endpoints that reflect changes in function can be defined.

We are excited to continue pursuing cutting-edge medical science through the talents, technology, regulatory and clinical development experience of AIRM, with an overall goal of establishing a cell therapy franchise in ophthalmology and becoming an industry leader in cell therapy.

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