These limitations require the development of new technologies and therapies to address the ocular issues of service members, which is the aim of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Vision Research Program (VRP).
To attain this goal, the VRP has established the Hypothesis Development Award, which supports the exploration of highly innovative, untested, high-risk/high-gain concepts, theories, paradigms, and/or methods that address an important problem in traumatic vision injuries.
Andrew MacKay, assistant professor at the USC School of Pharmacy, who has a background in biomedical engineering and an expertise in developing new methods of targeted delivery of medications, is uniquely qualified to meet these criteria.
MacKay has received a two-year, $250,000 award for his project, which focuses on treatment of the cornea. Vice Dean Sarah Hamm-Alvarez, the Gavin S. Herbert Professor in Pharmaceutical Sciences, is a co-investigator on the project.
“The primary goal of the proposed work is to develop a novel-targeted, protein-based drug and delivery system that can be administered once by injection following acute ocular trauma in a combat situation,” MacKay explained. “This will provide sustained release of therapeutics to initiate wound healing, sustain tissue lubrication in an arid environment and prevent further damage to delicate ocular surface tissue during transport to state-of-the-art medical facilities.”
MacKay will investigate the feasibility of drug delivery to the eye’s lacrimal gland and anterior segment, which has the potential to treat eye injuries sustained during combat and other eye diseases that affect the general population.
“This platform technology and specific approach are applicable to other chronic and acute diseases of the eye that do not respond effectively to topical eye drop administration due to the need for frequent administration and poor patient compliance,” MacKay said.
Glaucoma, severe scleritis, peripheral ulcerative keratitis and mycotic keratitis, which collectively affect more than 3 million Americans each year, are among the conditions noted by MacKay.