The collaboration will focus on developing state-of-the-art gene therapy treatments for hereditary eye conditions, primarily corneal dystrophies which are a leading cause of blindness worldwide. The research will also investigate the potential for the wider use of the treatments for other eye or ophthalmologic conditions.
California-based Avellino Labs develops new applications for genetic analysis of various eye conditions. The company uses gene editing technology to create new treatments for inherited eye diseases.
As part of the collaboration, Professor Tara Moore, Director of Ulster University's Biomedical Sciences Research Institute, and a world-renowned specialist in ophthalmologic research, will also take up a position of Director of R&D with Avellino Labs.
Professor Moore said: "Ulster University has an international reputation in personalised medicine research, which enables treatments for a wide variety of diseases to be tailored to individual patients, enhancing the management of chronic conditions and the overall effectiveness of treatment. Our work in this area makes Ulster University the perfect fit for a global leader like Avellino.
"The partnership will enable Avellino to access world-leading gene therapy advances pioneered by a team of Ulster University scientists and accelerate its move from the laboratory to clinical use in humans. Specifically we will focus on a type of genome editing called CRISPR. This technology allows only the affected, mutated part of the genetic make up – or DNA – in a cell to be altered, essentially removing or fixing the cause of the hereditary eye condition without affecting the rest of the cell.
"This is some of the most advanced technology currently available in the personalised medicine space, making Ulster University's partnership with Avellino a strategic move which will enable both organisations to further research objectives and ultimately deliver new treatments and therapies for genetic eye diseases worldwide."
Gene Lee, Chairman and Founder of Avellino Labs, stated: "We were the first movers in DNA testing for genetic diseases of the cornea. We are now looking to be the global leader in gene therapy for corneal diseases by partnering genetic diagnostics and therapeutics for personalised patient eye care."