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Getting more eyes on glaucoma
NEW YORK—Late March saw biotechnology acceleration development company Q BioMed announce that Mannin Research Inc., its technology partner, had begun a research collaboration with the Biointerfaces Institute at McMaster University in Ontario for the development of a GDF15 biomarker diagnostic kit to monitor disease severity and progression of glaucoma.
Q BioMed exclusively licensed the diagnostic biomarker GDF15 (growth differentiation factor 15) from Washington University in St. Louis in a recent deal. The protein is being explored as a biomarker to gauge the severity of glaucoma based on its expression levels in patients. Q BioMed is focused on advancing biomedical technologies through innovation and collaborative partnerships within the industry.
“This diagnostic kit can be used both as a standalone in any ophthalmologist’s office, as well as being used as a companion diagnostic with our promising MAN-01 glaucoma therapeutic candidate,” Denis Corin, Q BioMed’s CEO, commented in a press release. “Currently, no single examination or diagnostic test is able to accurately predict disease progression, and we believe GDF15 can help preserve visual function in glaucoma patients through accurate monitoring of disease progression. We are very pleased to team up with Mannin Research and McMaster University to advance this technology.”
Mannin Research is collaborating with Dr. John D. Brennan, Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Point-of-Care Diagnostics and director of the Biointerfaces Institute at McMaster University, on the development of a GDF15 diagnostic kit. The two organizations will work together to create, assess and apply DNA aptamers for detecting GDF15 in the aqueous humor of patients with glaucoma of differing severity. The end goal is the development of prototype assays to detect GDF15 that will enable point-of-care testing and that will be validated in a clinical setting.
This point-of-care technology will be applied as a companion diagnostic to Mannin Research’s MAN-01 small-molecule therapeutic, which is being developed to treat primary open-angle glaucoma. According to The Glaucoma Foundation, roughly 1 percent of all Americans present with this form of glaucoma. Primary open-angle glaucoma has no symptoms. In this form of the disease, intraocular pressure slowly rises, and the cornea doesn’t swell. Vision loss usually isn’t detected until later stages of the disease, but by that point damage is irreversible.
Dr. George Nikopoulos, CEO of Mannin Research, noted that, “Dr. Brennan and his team at the Biointerfaces Institute are revolutionizing the development of next-generation point-of-care diagnostic tests by integrating the most advanced analytical chemistry, materials science and biochemistry.”
The Biointerfaces Institute concentrates on the interaction of synthetic and biological materials, with a particular focus on bioactive surfaces for sensing applications such as medical and environmental monitoring.
The GeneCards Human Gene Database, courtesy of the Weizmann Institute of Science, notes that GDF15 “encodes a secreted ligand of the TGF-beta (transforming growth factor-beta) superfamily of proteins. Ligands of this family bind various TGF-beta receptors leading to recruitment and activation of SMAD family transcription factors that regulate gene expression. The encoded preproprotein is proteolytically processed to generate each subunit of the disulfide-linked homodimer. The protein is expressed in a broad range of cell types, acts as a pleiotropic cytokine and is involved in the stress response program of cells after cellular injury. Increased protein levels are associated with disease states such as tissue hypoxia, inflammation, acute injury and oxidative stress.”
A hallmark of glaucoma is increased intraocular pressure, which can be caused by inflammation in the channels that drain fluid in the eye; if the channels are inflamed, fluid drains slower than normal, and the increased pressure can potentially damage the optic nerve, leading to vision loss. The Washington University School of Medicine published a study in 2017 detailing their discovery of GDF15 and the fact that GDF15 levels increased in animals with age and as damage occurred to the optic nerve.