The cure for macular degeneration: a race against time

Image credit: Laitr Keiows via Wikimedia Commons.

University of Edinburgh researchers have set out to create a treatment for the Western world’s most common cause of irreversible blindness – and has just raised $42.5m in venture capital funding to help them reach this goal.

University of Edinburgh’s Professor Paul Barlow and Dr Andy Herbert are scientific founders of Gemini therapeutics, based in Cambridge, MA, USA. Gemini has drawn on collaborations with industry and academia to complete some of their early research and development, and now plans to advance their research to the clinic in the hope of creating a treatment for dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is estimated to affect 1 in 10 people over 65.

Dr Andy Herbert is “delighted that, based on a decade of our fundamental research, we are developing therapeutics that could help these patients.”

AMD is a condition that results in loss of vision due to the thinning of the eye’s macula, affecting a person’s ability to read and even recognise people’s faces. The macula is a small area in the middle of the retina that is responsible for what we see right in front of us. AMD causes sight to deteriorate over time. The condition currently affects more than 600,000 people in the UK and it’s the leading cause of vision loss. Lifestyle and environment contribute to the risk of developing AMD, but 45-70% of the risk is down to our genetics. Rare genetic variations can increase the risk of developing AMD by more than 20 times.

Gemini therapeutics are using a combined approach to tackle the disease, developing their program along three biological modalities. They are using, recombinant proteins and gene therapies to approach therapies, with a pipeline of three genetically defined targets to tackle AMD. With one target progressing through pre-clinical development, they have another two which are also at the research stage, all of which they hope to develop through to the clinic in order to treat the millions of patients who are hoping to benefit from it.

Professor Paul Barlow noted that “by 2020 there will be 200 million people worldwide with AMD, so this is a race against time.”


This article was written by Dawn Gillies and edited by Bonnie Nicholson.

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