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European Biopharmaceutical Review

Has Biotechnology Forgotten the Eye?

For over two decades, the biotechnology industry has been developing therapeutic products based on large molecules. The majority of these products are proteins, from the first trailblazers such as insulin and growth hormone, to the blockbusters like EPO, and subsequently wider classes of molecules such as cytokines, enzymes and antibodies. Yet in all this time, there have been few chronic clinical studies of proteins in eye disease. This is not because the markets are unattractive. Millions of patients suffer from poorly treated diseases in ophthalmology - such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), or diabetic retinopathy - yet there are still very few medical treatments available. The exception that clearly demonstrates the attractive nature of the ophthalmology market is Visudyne’, developed by QLT Therapeutics Inc. and Novartis. The product transformed QLT from a small Canadian cancer company into a significantly capitalised, internationally known biotech company. This change occurred when the QLT concept of photodynamic therapy, which had previously been applied for several years to cancer with limited success, was applied to AMD. So given this success, why is biotech activity so limited in the eye?


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By Dr Tom S Shepherd, President and Chief Executive Officer of Neurotech S.A.

Dr Tom Shepherd is President and Chief Executive Officer of Neurotech S.A., a French-based biotechnology company based in the Genopole science park in Evry near Paris, with a US R&D subsidiary based in Lincoln, Rhode Island. Prior to joining the company in 1998, he was Vice President of Business Development at Intrabiotics Inc, a Californian biotech company now quoted on Nasdaq.
Tom gained his PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, UK, and has 20 years of international management experience in pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, having worked in the UK, the US, Australia, South Korea and France, with a range of companies including Sandoz (now Novartis), Cortecs plc, and ICN Pharmaceuticals.

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