Medtech company Edinburgh Biosciences (EBS) is working towards a global solution for the diagnosis and treatment of cataracts. Using a new light-based non-surgical treatment, this cutting-edge treatment has already proved effective in clinical trials.
Ahead of presenting at the 32nd edition of the MedTech investing (MTi) forum on June 6 and 7, Edinburgh Biosciences’ chief executive officer Dr Graham Bell, explains the benefits and potential future applications of the technology.
What are cataracts and how can Edinburgh Biosciences help?
Cataracts are a cloudiness in the lens of the eye that is currently affecting the vision of 65 million people across the globe. Approximately 90% of over 70s have a cataract and whilst not everybody needs treatment they can be a significant life debilitating burden, on patients and healthcare alike. Today, the only treatment available is surgery which includes removing the crystalline lens and replacing it with a plastic lens. Whilst this can correct other vision defects, it comes with the risk of surgical and long-term complications that we want to bypass.
EBS’s technology offers an alternative to surgery. We have a low-energy LED light-based therapy (not a laser) which we focus on the lens of the eye and the cataract. The idea is to get the lens back to a point where the vision is sufficiently improved that patients are able to live a normal life without the need for surgery.
As the EBS procedure doesn’t require any surgery, the solution can be delivered both inside and outside the hospital environment, and our mission is to enable treatment in high street optometrists, which is highly feasible as the device is designed not to need ophthalmological medical training, and can be delivered by an optometrist or clinical assistant.
Our technology is set to completely change the care pathway for people with cataracts where, in the UK, the waiting list for cataract removal is currently at least 12 months from referral to surgery. Our technology will also be able to intervene at a much earlier stage in the process.
"We feel there is an opportunity to intervene earlier in the disease process with our technology."
Will this solution make cataracts much less impactful on patients?
In the long term that is the plan. There are approximately 300,000 operations a year in the UK alone, costing up to £3,000 per eye. We are focused on going to market with the right offering for both the patient and the ophthalmologist/optometrist, delivering a swift therapy for cataracts as well as supporting the current care pathway. We feel there is an opportunity to intervene earlier in the disease process with our technology and this could result in many fewer patients developing severe cataracts which would require surgical intervention.
Left to right: Chairman David Quigley, CEO Graham Bell, COO Trevor Shields
How did you how did you pinpoint the solution?
The company was founded by Professor Desmond Smith, a renowned professor of physics in Edinburgh in the 1970s. His company at the time dealt with lasers and spectrophotometers that were used in general laboratory setting and particularly in the analysis of fluorescence in various settings. He eventually sold the company to a Hong Kong group, after which he turned his attention to cataracts.
It was at this point that he needed cataract surgery himself and in speaking to Professor Baljean Dhillon, professor of clinical ophthalmology at the University of Edinburgh he started to develop theories around cataract therapy. He then went on to work with a group of European universities and companies looking initially at a laser technology solution to the problem, however they soon found that using lower energy and LEDs was far more effective, identifying a specific wavelength that was optimal for cataract reversion.
When UV light is used to stimulate the proteins in the lens, they fluoresce with an almost fingerprint-like pattern. There is a specific signal that comes back when a cataract forms and Des realised that if they used light on a certain wavelength, the cataract signal reduces.
"Patient responses have been
very exciting for us."
How has the solution been received so far?
Post a lot of development work, we have recently completed first-in-man trials, where we treated 11 patients in 15-minute segments. We have had no side effects from this trial and also found that patients were more than willing to sit through a multi-sitting treatment regime if it meant their cataract would be reversed. Patient responses have been very exciting for us, as we see statically significant results in the data which lead to patients reporting the ability to be able to read, write and even drive again.
Going forward, and once we have gathered enough data from patients, we will be able to complete deeper analysis into the impact of the treatment, including quantifying the stage of the cataract (today it is a visually graded by an optician), use AI technology we hope to be able to assess how much energy is required to address each individual cataract that is presented to our technology. We're already working with a technology partner to build background data collections and the algorithms, which we will use to get to the next trial and start building the reporting algorithms.
What will an ideal rollout look like to you?
In 2022 we are focused on the next, and final, clinical trial which will lead to securing a CE mark in 2023. Beyond that we will be commercializing in key jurisdictions, of which the UK will likely be the first but we are talking to a number of interested parties to identify the best route to market across the globe.
Graham Bell will present to attract investment as Campden Wealth returns to Lausanne, Switzerland, for the 32nd edition of the MedTech investing (MTi) forum on June 6 and 7.
Since 2003, (MTi) has brought Campden Wealth’s community together with general partners from venture capital, innovation and investment managers from biotech, pharma, and medical devices multinationals, as well as start-ups and SMEs looking for smart capital.
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