Belfast researchers join project to help improve sight-saving treatments

Researchers from the Queen’s University Belfast are taking part in a cross-Europe project to improve sight-saving treatments.

Ocular Research By Integrated Training And Learning (ORBITAL) will contribute to research which could lead to more widespread use of less invasive drug delivery methods such as eye drops, contact lenses and microneedle technologies, instead of the more traditional injections.

The funding will be used to recruit and train 15 early-stage researchers across Europe, including two researchers at Queen’s University Belfast.

These researchers will focus on treatment for eye diseases at the back of eye, including age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy, both of which are leading causes of blindness at a global scale.

Dr Raj Thakur, from the School of Pharmacy, Queen’s University Belfast, said the impact of eye disease is growing in part due to ageing populations.

“In the UK, every day more than 250 people start to lose their sight – creating a major health challenge to the NHS and global healthcare systems,” he said.

“AMD and diabetic retinopathy represent a considerable burden on patients and healthcare systems throughout the world.

“Current therapies for treating these diseases require direct injection of expensive drug treatments into the eye. However, the need for frequent injections leads to poor patient compliance due to several unwanted effects.

“There is a clear unmet clinical need for efficient, safe, non-invasive and patient-friendly strategies for the treatment of prevalent diseases of the back of the eye.”

He added: “We hope that this unique opportunity of many experts working collaboratively will lead to new discoveries and, ultimately, an improvement in treatment for the global burden of eye disease.”