AMD affects around a quarter of people over the age of 60 in the UK. The condition arises when cells supporting the light-sensitive cells in the retina fail, causing progressive loss of sight.
There are two forms of AMD: ‘wet’ or ‘dry’. While recent advances have produced a therapy for the wet form, there is no current or emerging therapy for the dry form.
The London Project to Cure Blindness, led by Prof Pete Coffey at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, is involved in producing a cell-replacement therapy from human embryonic cells – a therapy that it aims to introduce into clinics by 2011.
The goal is to replace cells essential for ‘seeing’ lost through disease at the back of the eye.
Under the terms of the agreement, Pfizer will provide funding to UCL to enable research into the development of stem-cell-based therapies for AMD as well as other retinal diseases.
Pfizer will also contribute expertise in the design and execution of clinical studies, interaction with global regulators and in product manufacturing techniques.
After the completion of preclinical safety studies, Pfizer will have the option to conduct clinical trials to determine the efficacy of treatment and to commercialise any resulting product.