Acucela’s primary focus is on safe and effective treatments for Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD). Acucela also has programs underway to treat other potentially devastating ophthalmic diseases, including glaucoma, retinopathy of prematurity, Stargardt disease and diabetic retinopathy, as well as dry eye syndrome.
About macular degeneration
The macula is a small region in the center of the retina that enables us to see fine detail. Light-sensing cells in the macula, known as photoreceptors, convert light into electrical impulses and transfer the impulses to the brain via the optic nerve. Central vision loss from AMD occurs when photoreceptor cells in the macula degenerate.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) occurs in "dry" and "wet" forms. AMD is a leading cause of blindness in the United States, and is estimated to affect more than 10 million Americans and 120 million people worldwide. Dry AMD is the most common form, representing approximately 90% of all cases.
(Reference: The Retinal Pharmaceuticals Market Report, Market Scope, 2012)
- Dry AMD occurs when light-sensitive cells in the macula slowly break down, gradually blurring central vision in the affected eye. As dry AMD worsens, a blurred spot may appear in the center of the patient’s vision. Over time, as less of the macula functions, central vision is gradually lost in the affected eye.
- Wet AMD, also known as “advanced AMD,” occurs when abnormal blood vessels behind the retina start to grow under the macula. These new blood vessels are fragile and often leak blood and fluid. As blood and fluid raise the macula from its normal place at the back of the eye, damage to the macula occurs rapidly. With wet AMD, loss of central vision can occur quickly. An early symptom of wet AMD is that straight lines appear wavy.
For more information about AMD, visit the National Eye Institute.
The lead compound in our VCM program, ACU-4429, is being evaluated in a Phase 2 clinical trial for the dry form of AMD, a degenerative disease of the eye that affects the part of the retina responsible for fine visual acuity and color vision. There is no approved treatment for dry AMD currently on the market.
Potential Non-AMD Retinal Indications
Acucela’s VCM compounds may provide therapeutic benefit for additional retinal disorders. Our VCM compounds will be investigated for potential use in these vision-impairing conditions. Potential therapeutic indications are described below:
Recent preclinical data demonstrate an improvement in retinal abnormalities following treatment with Acucela's VCM compound targeting this disease.
At first, patients with diabetic retinopathy, which usually affects both eyes, may not notice changes to their vision; however, over time, diabetic retinopathy can worsen and cause vision loss.
Non-Retinal Therapeutic Opportunities
In the United States, over three million people suffer from glaucoma, and this number is expected to increase dramatically as the population ages. Common treatments for preventing progression of visual field loss in patients diagnosed with glaucoma include drug therapy (beta blockers, prostaglandins, etc.), laser therapy and surgery, depending on the necessity and urgency of treatment.
The normal aging process is one of the root causes of dry eye syndrome. As we age, our bodies produce less oil—60 percent less at age 65 than at age 18. Without as much oil to seal the watery layer, the tear film evaporates much faster that it should, leaving dry areas on the cornea. Although rare, blindness can result from serious cases of dry eye syndrome.