First ever human trials in retinitis pigmentosa type 11 to go ahead

Associate Professor Fred Chen

There is new hope for sufferers of degenerative inherited eye condition known as retinitis pigmentosa. PYC Therapeutics has been given approval to start a first of its kind human clinical trial testing using a new drug to treat one common subtype of this condition. Retinitis pigmentosa affects around one in 3,500 people and almost one in 10 patients with retinitis pigmentosa has a particular subtype also known as RP11. The Lions Eye Institute alongside PYC Therapeutics has spent a number of years progressing a highly promising drug for the treatment of RP11.

Retinitis pigmentosa is a debilitating condition that begins in childhood and leads to severe vision loss in patients at the age of 40. There are currently no treatment options aside from counselling and visual rehabilitation. The progression to blindness significantly impacts the lives of the person affected and the people who support them. The ground-breaking research for this new treatment took place within the Lions Eye Institute’s Ocular Tissue Engineering Lab right here in Nedlands, Western Australia. The Lions Eye Institute’s very own Associate Professor Fred Chen worked with Professor Sue Fletcher, Chief Scientific Officer of PYC, and her team to achieve these amazing results.

Pictured above (L-R): Associate Professor Chen in his research lab, with the PYC team receiving the Innovator of the Year Award in 2021 for their innovative drug VP-001

This collaboration has resulted in a drug designed to correct the deficiency responsible for RP11, in cells derived from patients with the disease. The successful cell experiments provided the best proof of principal for the drug to work in humans. Clinical trials to establish safety and optimal dose will begin later this year. Associate Professor Chen is a world-leading ophthalmologist and treats numerous patients with retinitis pigmentosa, including families with multiple members who have developed severe retinitis pigmentosa in their early teens. The work of Associate Professor Chen, Professor Sue Fletcher and their teams will hopefully lead to an approved treatment for RP11 that will bring hope to people around the world living with this debilitating eye disease.

Read the article in The West Australian, and learn more about the Innovator of the Year Award.



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