Nanoscope Technologies, a SmartStart client of TechFW, has received two grants totaling $4 million for two optogenetics technologies that could bring sight to those with damaged retina cells, TechFW said in a news release.
The grants are from National Institute of Health subsidiary National Eye Institute within the U.S. Health and Human Services Department.
“We are grateful and thrilled for the support. This will allow us to advance development of our product pipelines for rapid clinical translation,” Sulagna Bhattacharya, the CEO/COO of Nanoscope Technologies, said in the release.
“This means that if the next steps are successful, we could bring back sight to millions who currently have no other recourse for treatment. With these grants, we are able to recruit top talent to the region, and can be expected to enhance our strength in innovation and commercialization,” Bhattacharya said.
Nanoscope Technologies was founded by Dr. Samarendra Mohanty, the president and chief scientific officer. With the grants and additional research, it will grow to 14 employees.
Nanoscope Technologies has developed a suite of synthetic multi-characteristic opsins (MCO) for sensitizing cells toward light so that targeted cells in the retina can be optically activated and help vision-impaired people regain sight. Market potential in the U.S. alone is several million people
“According to the World Health Organization, approximately 285 million people are estimated to be visually impaired worldwide. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a major cause of vision loss in aging populations. The number of affected patients is expected to double by 2050,” said an article on EurekAlert!, an online, global news service operated by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
“The degree of visual loss increases with age and is a major concern as demography shifts toward a more elderly population. Most of the current clinical treatments are focused on slowing down the progression of these retinal diseases, since there is neither a cure nor a therapy that can totally stop the degeneration,” the article said.
“Nanoscope scientists have developed a highly photosensitive virus carrying multi-characteristics opsin (VMCO) that allows stimulation of retinal cells for restoring vision in patients with AMD and genetic retinal diseases who have lost their photoreceptors,” the article said.
One Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant for $2 million is to further develop the opsin research, the TechFW news release said.
The news release said the research could lead to a major breakthrough in the vision restoration strategy for patients with retinal degenerative diseases. What’s unique about the approach is that it does not require any implant or external devices and can be effective in ambient light.
The other grant, also approximately $2 million, would take the MCO opsins a step beyond to allow them to emit light via bio-luminescence, the news release said. The opsins allow stimulation of the cells and would produce the image the brain is transmitting from the emitted light via an implanted camera. It has treatment implications beyond the retina cells, including chronic pain, epilepsy and neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s.
The BMCO grant is funded under Bioengineering Research Grant program of NIH and Nanoscope Technologies is the first non-university, for-profit company to receive one.
In addition to its work with restoration of vision, Nanoscope is testing its light-based technologies for non-invasive cancer detection and non-invasive chronic pain management.
“These grants are a testament to the innovative work that Nanoscope is undertaking to improve vision for so many in need. It is a day to celebrate whenever a startup is awarded NIH and Phase II SBIR grants and we are excited to see where Nanoscope goes next with its research,” said Hayden Blackburn, TechFW Executive Director.
Bhattacharya spent more than a decade in management consulting for large firms such as Deloitte and Hitachi, mostly concentrating on Business Intelligence Statistics and Risk Management. Mohanty has almost two decades of scientific, industrial and academic experience on bio-medical technologies. He is expert in biomedical instrumentation and gene therapy.
Nanoscope Technologies’ science combines molecular biology, bio-medical optics, neuroscience and bio-medical engineering. The company is located in Bedford.
– FWBP Staff