Company expands partnership with Space Tango to explore benefits of microgravity on treatment production
LambdaVision, an innovative biotech developing a novel treatment to help patients regain sight, along with implementation partner, Space Tango, has been selected by NASA for an award of five million dollars. This new funding will support LambdaVision’s development of the first protein-based artificial retina to restore meaningful vision for patients who are blind or have lost significant sight due to advanced retinitis pigmentosa (RP), with follow-on applications in age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness for adults over 55 years old. As part of this award, the company, together with Space Tango, will explore the benefits of microgravity for producing LambdaVision’s artificial retina on the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory located in low-Earth orbit (LEO).
"As we explore the seemingly immense ways in which microgravity can benefit the development and production of a wide range of products, our long-term collaboration with LambdaVision continues to provide us with valuable learnings that might one day help some patients regain sight and may also lead to other important production discoveries," said Twyman Clements, co-founder and chief executive officer, Space Tango.
The contract will cover a series of flights to the ISS over three years to evaluate and improve on-orbit production processes, and to produce artificial retinas that will then be evaluated on Earth for the potential to restore vision to patients suffering from retinal degenerative diseases.
Once validated, this process could also provide the foundation for a number of products that could be manufactured in space with clinical benefit to patients and process improvement across technology industries on Earth.
"Partnering with Space Tango and working closely with NASA continues to be an impactful experience that is providing new insight in the development of our artificial retina, and we are confident that this work will one day benefit patients who have lost their sight," said Jordan Greco, PhD, chief scientific officer, LambdaVision. "It is also our hope that LambdaVision’s work will inspire new research and commercial product development that can help foster a thriving low-Earth orbit economy."
By using proteins similar to the visual pigment, rhodopsin, that is naturally found in our eyes, LambdaVision’s protein-based artificial retina naturally mimics the light-absorbing properties of human photoreceptors and is capable of activating the degenerative retinas of blind patients. The implantable technology is produced through a layer-by-layer manufacturing process that ensures the artificial retina is dense enough to absorb appropriate amounts of light.
While layer-by-layer production processes are used on Earth for multiple applications, LambdaVision researchers believe that production in microgravity may reduce the amount of materials required to produce the artificial retina, lower costs, and accelerate production time for future pre-clinical and clinical efforts.
Exploring production of the artificial retina for a rare disease before moving to diseases which affect a significantly larger portion of the population, such as AMD, provides several strategic advantages toward the creation of a new LEO biomedical sector. These include more manageable production volumes required to supply clinical trials, and a step-wise transition to commercial production volumes and scale required for future applications reaching a larger patient population. Upon finalization of optimal production processes and pre-clinical studies, LambdaVision intends to initiate clinical trials for the treatment of advanced RP.
About Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP)
Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is the most common form of heritable retinal degeneration and leads to progressive loss of vision due to the breakdown and loss of photoreceptor cells in the retina, which comprise the light-sensitive tissue that lines the back of the eye. RP results from a diverse group of mutations in genes that regulate key biological mechanisms related to visual perception. Individuals suffering from this disease first experience night blindness, followed by tunnel vision and, ultimately, complete blindness due to the gradual loss of central vision. Classified as a rare disease, RP affects approximately 100,000 individuals in the United States and roughly 1.5 million people worldwide. There is currently no cure for RP.
About Space Tango
Space Tango provides improved access to microgravity through their Open Orbit platform for research and commercial manufacturing applications that benefit life on Earth. The Company believes the microgravity environment is a new frontier for discovery and innovation. Space Tango is focused on creating a new global market 250 miles up in low-Earth orbit and envisions a future where the next important breakthroughs in both healthcare and technology will occur off the planet. Recognized for their expertise in microgravity design and operations, Space Tango believes that by exploring with industry and educational partners of all kinds, we can improve life on Earth and inspire the next generation to continue to expand the horizon of this new frontier. For more information, visit www.spacetango.com.
LambdaVision is developing a protein-based artificial retina to restore meaningful vision for the millions of patients blinded by retinal degenerative diseases, including retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The patent-protected artificial retina technology developed by LambdaVision uses photoactive proteins to naturally mimic the light-absorbing properties of human photoreceptor cells and activate neuroreceptors still present in degenerated retinas of blind patients. Founded as part of the UConn Technology Incubator Program, LambdaVision along with its research partners, have secured over $8.0 million to date in state and federal funding. To learn more, visit lambdavision.com.