Long-lasting glaucoma fix? They can see it from here

Long view: The lab work is promising, but a long-lasting glaucoma treatment is still a long ways off, according to innovator Sustained Nano Systems.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

A Stony Brook biotech looking to carve a nanotech niche in the science of glaucoma treatment is eyeing some impressive laboratory results.

Sustained Nano Systems, working closely with Stony Brook University’s Center for Biotechnology, has “achieved positive in-vitro results on long-term sustained delivery of Latanaprost for glaucoma treatment,” according to a company statement.

Decoded: The biotech can keep the No. 1 glaucoma drug ticking for 159 days in in-vitro tests, which assess cells outside their normal place of biological residence.

This is a big deal – Latanaprost, the world’s most commonly prescribed treatment for glaucoma, is traditionally administered via eye drops, as many as four per day. That’s a nuisance at best and often a serious treatment roadblock.

Science has yet to create a long-acting glaucoma treatment. But detecting Latanaprost still lurking in a biological cell after more than five months suggests a potentially monumental shift in the treatment of the World Health Organization’s second-leading cause of blindness, scourge of 3 million U.S. patients alone.

Based in SBU’s Long Island High-Technology Incubator, Sustained Nano Systems achieved this microscopic feat using “bio-resorbable nano- and microparticles,” which facilitate long-term delivery of pharmaceutical payloads – in this case, the popular prostaglandin analogue, designed to reduce elevated intraocular pressure in cases of open-angle glaucoma or ocular hypertension.

While the lab work is impressive, the decade-old company is still years away from a commercialized long-term glaucoma treatment, according to CEO Barry Libin, a trained periodontist and successful entrepreneur who cites several critical steps between here and there.

While the company’s LAT-LA (for “Latanaprost Long Acting”) was detected in biological cells 159 days after being administered by injection, there was no telling if the nanoparticle-sustained drug was still effective after so much time. That will require animal trials, Libin noted, to “determine the efficacy, over time.”

“We have first realized that we can have the drug last for a long time,” he told Innovate LI. “Now the question is, is it effective over that period of time?

“What we need to do is now place it into an animal which has glaucoma and then measure their intraocular pressure and see if, and for how long, it remains reduced.”

Barry Libin: You can’t rush greatness.

Libin, who sold off prior startup BML Pharmaceuticals in 2005 and has bankrolled Sustained Nano Systems on that payday, said he did not know where the animal trials would take place or how long they would run – but finding test subjects won’t be difficult, according to the part-time mystery writer, a graduate of SBUs College of Business and the New York University College of Dentistry.

“There are several models of animals that have glaucoma and need to be treated,” Libin said.

It’s “really too early” to start talking about commercialization of LAT-LA, according to the CEO, who said successful animal trials would naturally lead to human testing – and that stage would likely last years as well.

“Because we’re suggesting that one administration is going to last for six months, it would indeed run somewhere in the range of a two-year study,” Libin added.

But the potential benefits of a single-injection, long-term glaucoma treatment may prove worth the wait. Libin has largely self-funded the proceedings so far, but he and his partners – including cofounder Jeffrey Liebman, vice-chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology at Columbia University Medical Center – are “about to do a Series A round,” the CEO said.

The company brain trust – including Chief Medical Officer Uri Shabto, a retinal disease specialist, and Weiliam Chen, co-founder of LIHTI-based hemostasis startup EndoMedix – is still crunching the numbers, and Libin was tightlipped about dates and dollars.

But the fundraising round “should begin shortly,” the entrepreneur said, “and then we should be able to begin preparation, along with guidance from the FDA, as to using [LAT-LA] in human trials.”

The nano- and microparticle delivery system should prove attractive to potential investors, according to the CEO.

“The potential for SNS LAT-LA to sustain delivery for six months would fulfill an important, unmet need in replacing the more burdensome and potentially less-compliant regimen of daily eye drops,” Libin said.