An early-stage Israeli ophthalmic medical devices startup has developed a revolutionary artificial cornea implant that holds out hope to millions of blind and visually impaired people suffering from diseases of the cornea.
The nanotech-based solution by CorNeat Vision of Ra’anana is a synthetic cornea that uses advanced cell technology to integrate artificial optics within ocular tissue.
After successful initial tests on animals, the company plans to move to human implantations in Israel in the middle of next year, and also to begin a larger clinical trial of 20 to 60 patients in the United States.
According to the World Health Organization, diseases of the cornea are the second leading cause of blindness worldwide, second only to cataracts. As many as 30 million people are affected, with around two million new cases each year.
“Though [corneal diseases are] a profound cause of distress and disability, existing solutions such as corneal transplantation are carried out only about 200,000 times a year worldwide,” said 47-year-old CorNeat Vision CEO and VP R&D Almog Aley-Raz.
“There exists an urgent need for an efficient, long-lasting and affordable solution to corneal pathology, injury and blindness, which would alleviate the suffering and disability of millions of people.”
CorNeat’s implant, the CorNeat KPro, which is to be unveiled to select members of the ophthalmic community at the XXXV European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons Congress (ESCRS) in Lisbon, Portugal this week, has just been cleared by the European Patent Office.
CorNeat KPro uses advanced cell technology to integrate artificial optics within resident ocular tissue. The implant is produced using nanoscale chemical engineering that stimulates cellular growth.
“Unlike previous devices, which attempt to integrate optics into the native cornea, CorNeat’s implant leverages a virtual space under the conjunctiva that is rich with fibroblast cells, heals quickly and provides robust long-term integration,” said Aley-Raz.
The surgical procedure takes just 30 minutes, and the company believes it can provide an efficient and scalable remedy for millions.
“The groundbreaking results obtained in our proof of concept, which is backed by conclusive histopathological evidence, are extremely encouraging,” said Dr. Gilad Litvin, CorNeat Vision’s founder, chief medical officer and inventor of the new implant.
“Our novel IP… ensures long-term retention, robust integration into the eye and an operation that is significantly shorter and simpler than keratoplasty (corneal transplantation),” he added.
Aley-Raz is the former CEO of Persay, a specialist in biometric voice authentication technology. The company was sold to Nuance Communications in 2010, and the business now brings in over $100 million a year to Nuance, according to Aley-Raz.
Aley-Raz set up privately funded CorNeat two years ago after meeting the inventor on a mountain-biking trip. “It was really surprising to me to see such a big problem was not being properly addressed,” he told ISRAEL21c.
“This device is extremely promising. It’s such a small device but it integrates so many different disciplines — chemistry, biology and physics. We are receiving extremely positive feedback,” he added.
“The innovative approach behind CorNeat KPro coupled by the team’s execution ability present a unique opportunity to finally address the global corneal blindness challenge,” said Prof. Ehud Assia, head of the ophthalmic department at the Meir Medical Center in Israel, a serial ophthalmic innovator, and a member of CorNeat Vision scientific advisory board.
Other advisory board members include Prof. David Rootman, one of the top corneal specialist surgeons from the University of Toronto, Canada; and Prof. Eric Gabison, a leading cornea surgeon at the Rothschild Ophthalmic Foundation research center at Bichat hospital in Paris, France.
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