Iveena Delivery Systems, a Salt Lake City-based biotech, was awarded a $225,000 grant from the National Eye Institute to expand their research into a topic treatment for keratoconus.
Dr. Bala Ambati, MD is an innovative cornea specialist whose interests include treatment of keratoconus. As professor of ophthalmology at the Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah, he followed the clinical trials associated with crosslinking with great interest and began to consider if there might be a way to formulate an eye-drop that would have the same effect. The result, he reasoned, would be a non-invasive, relatively cost effective, topical therapy for treatment of keratoconus.
In 2014-2015 he founded IVeena Delivery Systems, which investigates innovative treatments ocular diseases.
The keratoconus project (IVMED-80) is headed by Dr. Sarah Molokhia, PhD, IVeena’s Director of Research and Development. Her doctorate is in pharmaceutical chemistry, and she has several years’ experience in the field of drug delivery systems, including her time as a member of the faculty at Moran Eye Center working alongside Dr. Ambati.
Dr. Molokhia was recently awarded a highly competitive Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant. This award is made to small businesses seeking to commercialize innovative biomedical technologies. She has completed preliminary studies showing the corneal curvature was flattened when rabbits were treated with the IVMED-80 formulation. She anticipates starting a small clinical trial in 2018 for human subjects to determine optimal dosage. One of the unanswered questions is whether this treatment for keratoconus will require use of eye-drops over a lifetime, or if there is a dosage that can be taken over a period of time to provide long-term or permanent improvement in collagen stiffness.