Canadian team developing drug-delivering contact lens

A PhD candidate at Canada's McMaster University is developing a drug delivery contact lens for glaucoma patients because eye drops are incredibly inefficient and deliver only 5% of the active ingredient they carry to the cornea.

"The rest ends up in the skin around the eye or in the bloodstream," said Myrto Korogiannaki, the PhD student, in a university news release. "And that can mean undesired side-effects."

Korogiannaki's alternative contains hyaluronic acid, which apparently helps with controlled release of the drug from the lens to the cornea. Contact lenses can achieve this because they are in constant contact with the cornea.

"It's a much more targeted release of medication," Korogiannaki said.

The biggest advantage of Korogiannaki's potential drug delivery breakthrough, were it to become mainstream, is that it would solve the problem of nonadherence or noncompliance because patients wouldn't need to take (or not take, as the case may be) multiple eye drops every day.

Glaucoma drug-delivering contact lenses have been an interest of the university for some time. Its researchers have experimented with different formulations and molecular materials to achieve efficient and sustained release. A previous McMaster University student was studying the use of silicone hydrogels to deliver drugs through the cornea.

In addition, several corporate and academic teams are exploring new forms of drug delivery to the eye using microinjectors, including Korogiannaki's. She's part of a lab that developed a microneedle system for delivery to the back of the eye, instead of via syringe every 6 to 8 weeks.

A drug delivery contact lens would greatly improve convenience and ease of use. Novartis ($NVS) and Google ($GOOG) aim to develop a "smart" lens for diabetes and intraocular medical conditions.

- read the release