Our CEO Dr Andrew Hopkinson has just returned from Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of the Indian state of Kerrala with many stories of patients suffering from debilitating eye conditions.
Blindness is one of the major public health problems in developing countries. Though significant advances have been made in combatting cataracts, according to the World Health Organisation, still considers corneal disease as one of the leading causes of vision loss.
Currently 6.8 million people in India perceive the world with less than 6/60 vision, and around 20% of these situations involve both eyes. Sadly, it is predicted that unilateral corneal blindness will increase to 10.6 million by 2020 in India. According to the National Programme for Control of Blindness (NPCB), there are as many as 30,000 new corneal blindness cases each year in India which are due to ocular trauma, infection and corneal ulceration. This burden on the the Indian health care system is demonstrated by the fact that 90% of the global cases occur in developing countries (Gupta et al 2013 Indian J Community Med) .
Corneal blindness is avoidable as is it preventable and treatable, with almost 95% of corneal blindness being avoidable. Two corneal conditions amenable to prevention are inflections, known as known as keratitis, and Bullous keratopathy. These conditions are major contributor to corneal blindness in the Indian population, but can be completely prevented with appropriate measures.
Though a variety of therapy options are available in western medicine for surgeons to treat, prevent and repair corneal injuries and disease, due to access limitations and cost, these are not available to the the general population of India.
During his visit to Kerrala, our CEO was provided an opportunity by Professor Sahasranamam, and Dr Chitra Ragavan to visit Regional Institute of Ophthalmology (ROI), which is a key tertiary referral centre for ophthalmology conditioned. There, he was able to see first hand the devastating effects of these conditions on patients.
Keratitis, typically fungal and acanthamoeba, which is high prevalence due to the country’s climate, aggressively attacks the corneal structure to create an ulcer which causes loss of vision. If not treated in time, these type of ulcers rapidly degrade to perforate or rupture the cornea.
Bullous keratopathy and corneal perforation are two of the major contributors to corneal blindness in the indian population. Bullous keratopathy occurs when the endothelium does not pump fluid effectively and causes the cornea to become swollen and corneal perforation results from damage to the corneal surface. If these indications are left untreated ulcers could form that can provoke devastating ruptures and even lead to loss of the eye.
Introducing accessible and effective eye treatment has to be a focal strategy to halt the struggle against the proliferation of corneal disease, but these patents are not lucky enough to have such therapies available to them.
Omnigen can be used to reconstruct damage to the cornea surface and fix ruptures which triggers the healing process needed to prevent severe escalation of eye injuries. During Dr Hopkinson’s visit surgeons were particularly interested in Omnigen because there are few treatments currently available to them that stimulate corneal regeneration.
In response to this visit, NuVision is now working with the ROI to carry out two groundbreaking randomised clinical trials to take Omnigen to these indications. This exciting collaboration between NuVision Biotherapies in Nottingham and the regional institute of Ophthalmology in Thiruvananthapuram has just been approved by a local ethics committee.
If the trials yield successful results, Omnigen could in the future be on the shelves of hospitals all over India for potentially millions of patients to receive the life changing sight saving surgery. These studies could also build a foundation for the future application of Omnigen in other therapeutic areas.