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The company was a finalist for MIT’s 100K Entrepreneurship Competition, a yearlong contest that provides resources and funding to student entrepreneurs and researchers who submit business plans for ventures that show significant potential.

The company’s first focus will be developing a lens that delivers medication for glaucoma. Glaucoma affects 2.5 million Americans, and that number is expected to grow as the population ages. Many patients are prescribed eyedrops in the early stages of the disease, but because they have few symptoms and must take up to eight drops per day, between one-quarter and more than half of all patients fail to follow their medication schedules.

“A drug-eluting contact lens has tremendous potential,” says James Chodosh, an ophthalmologist at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, who was not involved in the work. The technology would be particularly useful for elderly or handicapped patients who have difficulty adhering to a frequent-dosing regimen, he says.

Chodosh adds that others have experimented for many years with different ways of delivering drugs to the eye. For example, small devices can be placed in the eye, but these are not widely used. Contacts, which many people already wear, could have a much easier time gaining acceptance by ophthalmologists. But to be clinically useful, Chodosh says, the lenses will have to fit well, allow proper flow of oxygen to the eye, and not interfere with vision.

Kreitel believes that the Eyenovations technology could also prove useful for dry eye, another widespread condition that requires regular drops, as well as for other diseases that require medication at the front of the eye. He adds, “There are also several medicines that people suspect are good for treating eye conditions, but they can’t be put into drops.” In addition, says Kohane, it may be possible to create a medicated lens with vision correction for those who already wear contacts. And medicated contacts could be a more efficient way to deliver eye medications to people in remote or resource-poor areas.

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Credit: MIT, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Children's Hospital Boston

Tagged: Biomedicine, Materials, polymers, eye disease, contact lens, glaucoma

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