The CNIB estimates the direct and indirect costs of vision loss in Canada at $7.9 billion per year. There are more than 836,000 Canadians living with significant vision loss that cannot be corrected using existing technology. With our aging population, this number is expected to increase dramatically over the next 10 years. Furthermore, while there are new ocular drugs in development, successful delivery of therapeutic doses of these drugs to the eye remains problematic. Therefore, the development of new ophthalmic materials and drug delivery devices is clearly needed by individual patients and society as a whole.
A lifetime of perfect vision is the overarching goal of 20/20. Research by 20/20 is aimed at the development of new biomaterials – and ultimately new therapies – for treating vision disorders.
The 20/20 Network brings together 12 researchers from four Canadian universities and 10 industrial partners and has as its broad goal the generation of novel materials-based solutions to vision loss. Overall, 20/20’s industry partners represent the broad range of applications the Network’s research is expected to impact and include: manufacturers of the raw materials used in ophthalmic devices, medical devices, ophthalmic pharmaceuticals and ophthalmic drug delivery systems.
The Network’s research is organized within two themes: Materials and Drug Delivery. Bioactivity and biocompatibility model development and testing is another research thrust and spans both themes. The 20/20 Network will train 30 to 40 post-doctoral fellows, 35 to 45 graduate students and over 60 summer students during its five-year lifetime.
In 2008, 20/20 was awarded $5 million in research funding over five years. Collaborating partners, including the Ontario Centres of Excellence – Centre for Materials and Manufacturing, will contribute a further $1.8 million cash and in-kind support over this period.
The 20/20 Board of Directors governs the network, the Scientific Committee oversees the research projects and sets research priorities, and the Technology Exploitation Committee, a sub-committee of the Board, facilitates and actively searches for new technology transfer opportunities.
Through improvement of the understanding of fundamental structure: property relationships, 20/20 will efficiently develop promising materials and drug delivery devices for anterior and posterior segment ophthalmic applications. Specifically, the Network will:
The research projects of 20/20 will yield new materials which may lead to commercial development by the Network’s industrial partners of, for example:
Having been members of multidisciplinary teams, and having had considerable access to industrial scientists, state-of-the-art equipment and cutting-edge techniques, the scientists trained within 20/20 will be uniquely qualified for careers within the medical device industry and the broader biotechnology sector.